June 27, 2005
By Aaron Juarez
SCU Media Relations
The heavens aligned and the stars shined for Santa Clara University athletics during the 2004-05 season as the Broncos brought home the Commissioner's Cup as the West Coast Conference's top athletic program. In a year full of championships, upsets, and gritty performances, the various Santa Clara teams burst out of the gates eager to take on all comers and stand tallest among its conference and local brethren.
The men's and women's soccer teams set the pace early on with strong conference performances and tenacious play. Led by All-Americans Leslie Osborne and Megan Kakadelas, the women's squad rolled to an 18-5-2 record overall and went 6-1 in WCC play to capture their seventh conference title in the last nine years.
The team won 11 straight matches in one stretch of the season, including a 1-0 overtime victory at defending champion North Carolina in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Kakadelas' golden goal 31 seconds into the first overtime prevented the Tar Heels from reaching the College Cup for the first time in the tournament's 23-year history.
On the men's side of the pitch, the Broncos blazed through their schedule, winning their first seven matches en route to an 11-1-0 start and second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Among the wreckage left in the wake of Santa Clara's whirlwind start were a Rivalry Series victory over San Jose State and wins against strong programs such as San Francisco, Portland, and Stanford.
In his first season wearing the Santa Clara red and white, sophomore midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy earned All-America honors from both the NSCAA and College Soccer News. A transfer from Creighton, Ballouchy led the Broncos with 15 points (three goals and nine assists) and contributed to a nationally-ranked defense which allowed only .76 goals per game.
All-WCC forwards Will Weatherly and Keith DeVey also made up the teeth of the Bronco attack, as DeVey led the team with five goals, and Weatherly contributed a pair of goals and four assists. Weatherly was also named an ESPN Academic All-America after the season. Sophomore Hector Guzman showed his flair for the dramatic, coming off of the bench to score three-straight game-winners against San Francisco, Portland, and Gonzaga.
From the green grass of Buck Shaw stadium to the dirt paths of Crystal Springs, Santa Clara teams continued to doggedly charge their way up the standings. The men's and women's cross-country teams each made solid starts to the 2004 season, capturing the team title at the Bronco Invitational. Six Bronco men finished in the top ten, paced by junior Chris Doerhoff's third-place finish in which he clocked a time of 27:37 for the 8K course. Sophomore Jessica Baldwin-Philippi took top individual honors in the women's race, turning in a first-place effort of 19:29 on the 5K Crystal Springs course.
Both squads continued their strong efforts on their familiar stomping grounds in Belmont for the WCC Championship meet. Freshman Michael Delaurenti led the Bronco contingent with a 14th place individual finish that earned him All-WCC honorable mention and carried the team to a third-place team finish in the WCC. Their performance also qualified the men for the NCAA West Regionals in Fresno. There, on the 10K course at Woodward Park, the men crossed the line with a 19th place team finish, concluding the young squad's season on a positive note.
On the women's side of the competition, the senior pair of Robin Bell and Katie Hansen provided strong leadership to a young team looking to make an impact. Freshman Adriane Puetz along with sophomores Blossom Marimpietri and Baldwin-Philippi stepped up and offered a glimpse ahead towards the bright future of Santa Clara cross-country.
At the WCC Championships in Belmont, Hansen, Bell, and Puetz all finished in the top 20, with Hansen earning All-WCC honorable mention after turning in a 12th place 5K time of 19:04. At the NCAA West Regionals in Fresno, Hansen again led the Bronco women on the course as the team placed 25th.
In the pool, Santa Clara men's water polo battled its way through the WWPA and enjoying some time spent in the national rankings during the season. Led by All-WWPA performers Kenny Flanagan-De La Hoz, who scored a team-leading 46 goals , and goalkeeper Peter Moore, the Broncos wrapped a highly competitive schedule with an eighth-place finish at the WWPA Championships. Flanagan-De La Hoz earned another honor in the spring as he was named to the ESPN the Magazine/CoSIDA All-District VIII All-Academic Team.
The Leavey Center saw its first action of the year when the women's volleyball team took the court with three straight victories over Sacramento State, Arkansas, and Pacific. The team sailed to a 9-2 non-conference record and a familiar spot in the national rankings. After a third-place finish with a conference record of 9-5 and overall record of 18-9, the Broncos earned their seventh-consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Sisters Toni and Annalisa Muratore finished 1-2 on the team in kills per game with 3.48 and 3.41, respectively. Toni, a senior, earned first-team All-WCC honors while Annalisa was not only received All-WCC honorable mention but was also named WCC Freshman of the Year.
Joining Muratore on the All-WCC first team were junior Cassie Perret and sophomore Kim McGiven. McGiven ranked second in kills with 277 and third in KPG with 3.08, while Perret finished fourth on the team in both KPG (2.44) and assists (33) on the season.
Santa Clara sports stayed indoors for most of the next few months as the successful fall season gave way to winter and kept things rolling on the Mission Campus. Just as the Leavey Center was kind to women's volleyball, where they went 9-2 on the season, men's and women's basketball found that there was nothing quite like home cooking.
After going 2-1 to open the season at the NABC Classic in New Mexico, men's basketball traveled up Highway 880 to the Oakland Coliseum Arena to face off with the 4th-ranked Tar Heels. After falling behind 20-9 early on, the Broncos clamped down on the heavily-favored Tar Heels behind the gritty inside play of Travis Niesen, who showed no fear battling North Carolina's much-lauded front line. Inspired by the hard-nosed play of Niesen and senior guards Kyle Bailey and Doron Perkins, Santa Clara closed the first half on a 20-9 run to head into the locker room at the half with a 29-26 lead.
From whistle-to-whistle in the second half, the Broncos were just too much for the Tar Heels. Niesen scored virtually at will inside the paint and finished the night with 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Perkins was omnipresent on the court, flying in, around, and through the powder blue-clad Tar Heels for 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Bailey found his mark as well, hitting three from behind the arc in the second half as the Broncos pulled away, leading by as many as 19 at one point en route to a 77-66 upset.
The win over North Carolina set a wild tone for the rest of the Broncos' season, as dramatic wins and exciting basketball permeated the Leavey Center in 2004-05. In the home opener just over a week later, Santa Clara added another prominent team to their list of vanquished foes, knocking off the Stanford Cardinal 86-76 in front of a delirious horde of Ruff Riders, the official student fan club of Santa Clara sports.
The Broncos were powered once again by the dauntless play of fan-favorite Niesen, who put up a double-double of 31 points and 11 rebounds, and the all-around presence of Perkins, who added 12 points, four assists and four steals. Santa Clara shook off a slow first half and came out firing in the second, scorching the Cardinal for 58 points in the final 20 minutes.
Santa Clara's high-profile victories not only brought up memories among long-time Broncos fans of head coach Dick Davey's "Cinderella" teams of a decade ago, but also raised the profile of the West Coast Conference as a force to be reckoned with.
Davey's Broncos bruised their way to a 5-2 record at the halfway point of the WCC season, highlighted by a 65-42 destruction of rival St. Mary's and a Los Angeles-area road sweep of Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. The victories over the Lions and Waves marked the first time since the 1993-94 season that the Broncos had completed the "L.A. sweep," and only the third in the last 21 years.
The Broncos ended up third in the WCC, earning a first-round bye in the conference tournament, which was held at the Leavey Center for the second consecutive year. After a 67-60 victory over San Francisco in the second round, the Broncos fell to Saint Mary's in a hard-fought semifinal contest. Yet still, through the dim shroud of defeat, the Broncos' thrill ride of upsets, buzzer-beaters, and workman-like style of play in 2004-05 brought back an overpowering sense of anticipation for the 2005-06 season.
Perkins earned first-team All-WCC honors after leading the team in points per game (15.4), rebounds (6.0/game), blocks (0.58/game) and steals (2.39/game). Niesen and Bailey each earned All-WCC honorable mention after finishing second and third on the team in scoring with averages of 15.1 and 14.8, respectively. Niesen also finished second on the team in field-goal percentage among players with at least 100 attempts, shooting 47.9 percent from the floor, while Bailey also led the team in assists, averaging 4.2 a game.
Brody Angley was named to the WCC All-Freshmen team after appearing in all 31 games, averaging 5.3 points a night and leading the Broncos in three-point field-goal percentage, shooting 39.3 percent behind the arc. Angley also proved his mettle to the Leavey Center crowd under pressure, hitting a buzzer-beating fade-away jumper in traffic to defeat Saint Mary's 78-76 on February 11.
Of course, the men weren't the only ones to take Broncos fans on a wild ride. Led by senior All-WCC first-teamer and team scoring leader Quinn Thomas (13.6 ppg) and the return of junior All-WCC honorable mention Kayla Huss, the women's squad established themselves as one of the most prolific scoring teams in Santa Clara history. Head coach Michelle Bento's charges ranked in the program's top five team categories for total points scored (2,220, fifth overall) and field goal attempts (1,918, third overall).
Yet what this high-scoring team did best was bring on the rain on a nightly basis. Paced by Thomas's 65 three-pointers on the year, the fifth-highest single-season total in SCU history, the team shattered the all-time school marks for both three-pointers made and attempted. The Broncos put up 718 attempts from beyond the arc in 2004-05, outdistancing the previous record by 140 attempts. Of those attempts, Thomas & Co. drained 272 of them (beating the old record by 60) for a three-point shooting rate of 37.9 percent, good for fourth all-time.
Never was Santa Clara's three-point efficiency more on display than in front of the home crowd at the WCC Tournament. Having finished third in conference with an 8-6 record, the Broncos earned a bye to the second round where they were matched up against San Francisco. What happened next surely the Dons did not see coming. Santa Clara drained a WCC Championship-record 14 threes in the game en route to a 90-49 rout which saw more WCC Championship records fall, including most points scored in a game (90) and largest margin of victory (49). Freshman Chandice Cronk was a perfect 4-for-4 on her threes, and led the Broncos with 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting for the night. Santa Clara used their hot hands to pull away from the Dons, building a 50-20 lead at the half and never looking back.
In the semifinal round against Loyola Marymount, the Broncos showed that they were no one-trick pony, relying this time on solid inside shooting and clutch defense to earn a hard-fought 73-64 win. Despite a night in which they went 2-for-14 on three-point attempts, and 0-for-2 in the second half, Santa Clara shot 52.2 percent from inside the arc and 82.6 percent from the free-throw line (19-of-23) in the final 20 minutes to defeat the Lions. Entering the second half down 33-30, the Broncos fed the ball inside to draw fouls against the LMU defense. The strategy paid off especially from the line, as Huss (10-for-10 for the game) and fellow All-WCC honorable mention Michelle Cozad (13-for-14 for the game) continued to cash in from the charity stripe.
Leading up to the WCC Championship Game against No. 24 Gonzaga, the Ruff Riders could sense an upset in the making, despite the Bulldogs having run roughshod through the WCC during the regular season with a perfect 14-0 record. With a record-tying 14 threes and double-figure scoring performances from Cozad (22 points), sophomore Ashley Graham (17 points), and Thomas (14 points), the Broncos took a 46-32 lead at the break and held off a late Gonzaga charge to take the WCC crown and clinch an NCAA Tournament appearance with a 77-66 victory.
The men's and women's spring tennis seasons kicked off in February with a new addition to the matches: The Hecklers on the Hill. The HOH, made up of over 200 Santa Clara students in its inaugural year, witnessed some memorable tennis and definitely played a role in helping both teams go a combined 17-2 in dual matches at the Degheri Tennis Center.
The men's team finished their season with an overall record of 14-11 in dual matches, including three victories over nationally-ranked teams. The Broncos defeated No. 52 Oregon, No. 75 Denver, and clinched a third-place finish in the WCC by posting a 4-2 victory over Portland. Sophomores Bobby Rasmussen and Jan Macek, along with freshman A.J. Kerin led the team in singles victories, with Kerin posting a team-best 21-11 record. Rasmussen and doubles partner Ben Hidalgo, a recipient of the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar Award, led all doubles pairs with an 8-5 overall record.
On the other side of the net, the women's tennis team posted 16 dual match victories, the most since 1997. During this stretch the team also earned the program's first-ever national ranking, debuting at No. 70 on the Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll. Leading the charge were sophomore WCC Spring All-Academic performers Jessie Strunk and Kelly Leathers, each of whom topped 20 singles wins on the season. Strunk finished 21-10 playing primarily in the No. 6 singles spot, while Leathers excelled in the No. 2 spot, posting a 16-2 record in that spot and an overall mark of 20-7. The No. 1 doubles team of Leathers and senior Janalle Kaloi went 13-7 on the season, while Kaloi, the No. 1 singles player on the team, posted 15 wins on the season to end her Santa Clara career second all-time in the school record books with 65 singles victories.
Back in the pool, the women's water polo team was busy setting some of the program's historic firsts. While opening their season on a 9-3 run, the squad earned the No. 20 ranking on the Collegiate Coaches Women's Water Polo poll, the team's first-ever spot in a national poll. Following an 18-17 record and fourth-place finish in the WWWPA Championships, senior co-captain Catherine Flynn became the first Bronco to earn a spot on the All-WWWPA first-team.
From the temperature-controlled waters of the Leavey pool to the chilly, pre-dawn waters of the Lexington Reservoir, Santa Clara athletics continued the momentum of the 2004-05 season. Whether it was rowing in the winds and scattered showers at the WCC Challenge or pounding the water at the Dad Vails in Philadephia, men's and women's crew provided some of the raw and dogged determination that is the backbone of successful athletic programs.
At the WCC Championships, guided by the performance of All-WCC rower Laura Hellenthal, women's crew finished fourth. Men's crew, meanwhile, captured second-place in the unofficial WCC races, finishing just 4.6 seconds behind Gonzaga. The following weekend, at the WIRA Championships, both men's and women's varsity eight boats finished fourth in the final races.
Both crews finished their season at the prestigious Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia, Penn. While the men and women acquitted themselves well in competition, the highlight of the meet was in the final repechage heat. There, the men's varsity eight used a strong finishing kick to surge past Notre Dame in the final 80 meters and defeat the Irish by two seconds to qualify for the semifinal heats.
The Santa Clara golf teams showed that Bronco student-athletes were just as adept with a 3-wood as they were with an oar. Under the watchful eye of fifth-year head coach Polly Schulze, the Bronco women made great strides during the season, highlited early on by a third-place finish among 15 teams at the Cal Poly Invitational. Sophomore Samantha Trask led the charge, shooting two even-par rounds of 73 to win her first career individual title by five strokes over the next closest competitor.
The Broncos continued to build momentum, placing third in the rain-shortened SCU Colby Classic, in preparation for the WCC Championships. Despite the loss of senior captain Courtney Dimpel-Composti to a back injury in spring, freshman Corey Utsurogi and junior Candice Palmer picked up the reins with Trask to fill the void. At the WCC Championships, Santa Clara battled its way to a third-place finish, as Trask earned All-WCC honors with a tenth-place finish with a three-round score of 238. Palmer also cracked the top 15 as her total of 246 was good for 14th place.
In men's action, junior Michael Nicoletti was the only golfer to shoot under-par for the tournament at the SCU Invitational, as he tamed the Silver Creek Valley Country Club course to take medalist honors with a three-round score of 215. Paced by Nicoletti's performance, the Santa Clara "Red" squad captured team first-place honors with a team score of 884 for the event.
Sophomore Jong Yoon turned in three top-5 finishes on the season, including a 14th place effort at the WCC Championships. Yoon's best performance of the year was at the Countrywide Intercollegiate in Simi Valley, Calif. There Yoon did no worse than even-par in all three rounds, carding a 71-72-70-213 to tie for fourth in the individual competition.
At the WCC Championships in April, the men's team surged out to a third-place finish, improving five spots from the eighth-place finish of 2004. Nicoletti and fellow junior Eric Lillibridge each carded a 223 for the three rounds, tying for 11th place overall. Along with Yoon's 14th place finish, seniors John Colyar and Jonathan Edwards also cracked the top 20 by placing 16th and 17th, respectively.
Making their debut on the Santa Clara sports landscape in 2005 were the men's and women's track programs. Comprised of approximately 30 student-athletes, Bronco Track competed in events ranging from the 400-meter to the 5,000-meter races.
The team's first outing, at the Aggie Track and Field Classic, showcased the return of sophomore standout Shannon Bell. In her first competition in 15 months, Bell turned in a solid second-place finish in the women's 5,000-meters to lead a Bronco contingent that included top-ten finishes by Jessica Baldwin-Phillippi and junior Kiley Strong.
Christen Gumbs and Bell also etched their names into the Santa Clara books by recording the first individual men's and women's race victories in the program's short history. Gumbs broke the tape in the 3,000-meters with a time of 9:20 at the Johnny Mathis Invitational in San Francisco, while Bell's victory came in the 5,000-meters at the Chico Twilight Open, besting the next-best competitor by 23 seconds.
Moving on from the oval to the diamond, Santa Clara began the 2005 season under first-year head coach and former Broncos standout Jaime Forman-Lau. The Broncos posted a 13-9 record at Marsalli Park, including a Rivalry Series sweep over San Jose State.
Juniors Jessica Clee and Jenny Brown were named to the All-PCSC second team, as Clee, the only Bronco to start all 57 games, won the team triple crown by batting .304 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs. Brown batted .280 on the season, including a .397 clip in PCSC play, leading the team with 13 doubles and sharing the team lead in runs scored with 27. Liz Courter went 14-14 for the Broncos in the circle with a 2.84 ERA and three shutouts, and earned PCSC Pitcher of the Week honors twice during the season.
At the Fresno State Tournament, the Broncos came within one out of upsetting the defending national champion UCLA Bruins, taking a 5-4 lead into the seventh inning before falling 6-5. Despite the setback, Santa Clara out-hit the Bruins 10-7 and the team's four-run rally in the sixth inning showed that the team would never back down from any challenge.
The 2004-05 sports season was capped off in grand fashion as the baseball team proudly opened up play in brand-new Stephen Schott Stadium on April 30. The Broncos christened their new digs with a dramatic 3-2 victory in 13 innings to send the sellout crowd of 1,500 home in joyous celebration. Junior catcher Kris Watts, a day after hitting the final home run at Buck Shaw Stadium, hit the first-ever Broncos home run at Schott Stadium.
Led by the pitching of Anthony Rea, who was named WCC Pitcher of the Month in May after posting a 3-1 record with a 1.33 ERA, and the offensive firepower of juniors Michael Thompson, Eric Newton and Kevin Drever, the Broncos closed out their season with a 10-6 stretch. This season-ending run included two victories over nationally-ranked Stanford and a three-game sweep of Coast Division leader Gonzaga.
Drever was named first-team All-WCC after leading the Broncos with a .327 batting average, and Rea also earned first-team honors after pacing the Santa Clara staff by going 7-6 with a 2.84 ERA, four complete games and five saves. Newton provided some fireworks of his own, playing the hero on consecutive nights against San Francisco and Stanford. On May 9, Newton hit a game-winning, two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the Dons 2-1, and the next night he ended a 12-inning affair with the Cardinal by singling in the winning run for a 6-5 Broncos victory.
With the solid and dogged performances of each sport in the 2004-05 season, Santa Clara's student-athletes were justly rewarded for their blood, sweat and tears when it was announced by the WCC that the Broncos had won the Commissioner's Cup as the conference's top athletic program. After years of superb performances and memorable moments, Santa Clara University and its student-athletes had finally reached the mountain-top as the undisputed champions of the West Coast Conference.