SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Erik Hurtado scored twice in the first half and Santa Clara University fended off a late rally to earn a hard-fought 2-1 decision over West Coast Conference rival San Francisco Sunday night.
Santa Clara (6-5-0; 3-1-0 WCC) remains perfect on its home field through four WCC contests. It was the Broncos' third victory in league play, which includes a win over the University of San Diego, setting up a battle for first-place when SCU visits the University of Portland this coming Friday, Oct. 12.
"We are in the midst of the WCC first round and everybody is trying to position themselves in a spot to make a run for (the championship)," said Santa Clara head coach and former US Olympian Cameron Rast. "Particularly when you play your home games, you feel like those are the games you need to get results. Tonight that's what we felt. We felt like we needed to get a result."
The Broncos denied San Francisco (4-4-2, 2-2-0 WCC) of consecutive road wins, following the Dons' dramatic 2-1 overtime victory over St. Mary's Friday. USF received a second-half score from sophomore forward Miquel Aguilar stemming from a corner kick, and Aguilar nearly tied it in the closing moments.
"This was a tough one," said SCU starting defender Phillip Muscarella. "We got up in the first half by two goals but knew at halftime we had more work to do. Last year we were down 2-0 to USF and came back and won 3-2. So we knew we had to hold it down. It was tough but we had to grind it out in the second half. That's what these WCC games are all about, you have to grind it out and get the W. That's what matters at the end of the day."
Santa Clara was afforded a two-goal edge thanks to Hurtado – the WCC Player of the Month for September – who was terrific up top for the Broncos once again Sunday night. The senior from Beaverton, Ore. put his first two shots into the back of the net. He entered the week ranked 12th nationally in goals per game and upped his season total to nine.
"He's been a dominating force," Rast said about the play of Hurtado this season. "He's not a secret; it's not like the conference opponents after three years don't know what's coming. But he became the difference today in the game. He's a tough guy to stop. I think what I'm most proud of him tonight is that he chose moments. He didn't get it and try to do it all himself. We talked about that during pre-game; we win this as a team not as a player."
The Broncos have gone 5-1-0 since Sept. 9, with the back-line and all-league senior goalkeeper Larry Jackson deserving a lot of the credit as well, allowing just three goals in the last six games.
2012 WCC Men's Soccer Standings
Team WCC (PTS) Overall
Santa Clara 3-1-0 (9) 6-5-0
Portland 3-1-0 (9) 5-5-1
San Diego 3-1-0 (9) 5-6-0
San Francisco 2-2-0 (6) 4-4-2
Saint Mary's 1-2-1 (4) 5-3-3
Loyola Marymount 1-2-1 (4) 3-7-2
Gonzaga 0-4-0 (0) 4-7-0