It's hard to believe we are already playing games again! It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the end of another successful season and watching our seniors cross the stage at graduation.
Yet, we have entered into another year and, if the first weekend is any indication, we are headed towards another great year.
It's hard to think about Bronco athletics without talking about the wondeful job Jerry Smith has done with the women's soccer program. After losing in double overtime in the NCAA championship game last winter and watching Aly Wagner move on to the WUSA, more than a few soccer experts wondered about how Jerry's team would respond.
Jerry and his staff responded in classic Bronco fashion, signing the number one recruiting class in the nation and earning preseason number one national rankings in several college soccer polls.
That talented class of freshmen was introduced quite early to what it means to be a Bronco. After a training camp in San Diego, the team returned to campus for an exhibition and autograph session for hundreds of fans. Then, the squad opened the season in front of over 2,000 fans against third-ranked UCLA and, after a hard-fought draw, again conducted an autograph session for hundreds of their adoring fans.
All Bronco fans should be proud of not only what Jerry Smith has done with the program, but also with the class and style with which his team carries itself. They are role models for young girls and accept that role with a smile on their faces.
Also related to women's soccer, congratulations to our four former Broncos selected to wear the red, white & blue of the USA National Team in the upcoming Women's World Cup. Kylie Bivens, Brandi Chastain, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner will all be representing the USA and Santa Clara University in the most important women's soccer event in the world!
Jon Wallace's volleyball team entered into this season having lost two of the most accomplished and personable players in the program's history in Chrissy and Cindy Hirsch. The twins were the catalyst for last year's team that was ranked as high as 11th in the national polls and they will most certainly be missed.
When the national preseason polls came out, Santa Clara was ranked 14th. That's the highest preseason ranking for a Bronco volleyball program ever. After putting together a few outstanding recruiting classes, our program should move into a position as one of the top 10 programs nationally. Jon has an unbelievably talented team and they are fun to watch.
In response to the outstanding level of support of our program, we have created a new reserved seat ticket plan in the Leavey Center. Now, you can get the best seats in the house for every match and support the Broncos as they play teams such as Hawai'i, Pepperdine and Stanford. I encourage all local Bronco fans to seriously consider this new seating option, then tell us how you like it.
Cam Rast and the men's soccer program spent the preseason in England, where they were able to get to know each other better and practice at some of the storied training sites in the world. The Broncos played four matches, winning all four, and attended two English Premier League matches. The squad returned home with a new focus and quickly went out and won its first two matches of the season. I suspect we will hear some great things from Cam's program this year and as we move forward. We are all committed to getting the men's soccer program back to the College Cup and raise another national championship flag at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Two of the brightest programs among our 17 sports, yet maybe the least publicized are our men's and women's cross country teams. John Maloney and Tom Service do a great job and year-in and year-out they compete for the top spot in the WCC championships. Tom's women's team had the best recruiting class in school history and in the season-opening meet three freshmen finished among the top five spots on the team and the Broncos finished just behind Stanford, last year's NCAA runners-up.
Keith Wilbur and the men's water polo team features a ton of new faces and I am really optimistic about the direction of that program. Keith has been a real bright spot in our athletic program and his team has an energy and expectation that will most certainly result in more success in the water. The men's water polo squad has always been extremely supportive of all our athletic teams and could be in the running for the Bronco Spirit Award this spring!
As many of you know, we will be hosting the West Coast Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament this spring at the Leavey Center. We are so proud to have the opportunity to showcase our outstanding arena to the rest of the league. Our staff does such a great job in hosting NCAA and league championship events and I am confident everyone who attends will have a great experience.
Tickets for the WCC Tournament are on sale now through our website. I suggest you order tickets early since all six Bay Area teams, between the men and women, are experiencing optimism regarding the upcoming season and seating in the Leavey Center is sure to be at a premium.
It's a new season and I hope to see you supporting each of our 17 teams and nearly 350 student-athletes. If you come out to games on a regular basis, thank you. If not, come check it out. You'll be glad you did.