January 24, 2013

2012 Season Highlights: 24 Winning Seasons in 26 Years

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Santa Clara University men's soccer team enjoyed yet another winning season in the fall of 2012. In fact, the Broncos posted their 24th winning season in the past 26 years. Santa Clara Hall of Famer Cameron Rast – who now owns a 125-64-40 overall record in 11 seasons as head coach - led his group to an 11-6-2 mark in 2012, with an impressive 8-2-2 record during West Coast Conference play.

Santa Clara's 2012 final-year players (l-r): Alex Fitschen, Murphy Campbell, Gabriel Romero, Takahide Kameya, Erik Hurtado, Devin Character, Danny Maeda, Wes Culver and Larry Jackson.

Despite going undefeated down the stretch, shutting out three consecutive WCC opponents in the process and going on the road to defeat league-leading San Diego on the final day of the regular season – the Broncos would narrowly miss winning the WCC Championship. It would be the second consecutive year the Broncos would finish as WCC runner-up.

In the world of NCAA men's soccer, only 48 teams qualify for the NCAA tournament – different from the 64 programs invited to participate on the women's side or the recently expanded, 68-team NCAA men's basketball field.

In 2010, Rast and his Broncos won the WCC title and went on to represent SCU in the NCAA's. However, in four of the past five years, the WCC has advanced just one team into postseason play – the league champion – and the conference runner-up has been left on the outside looking in.

With a rich tradition of soccer success – 19 NCAA tournaments, 11 WCC titles, 5 College Cup Final Fours and even an NCAA National Championship to its credit – not making the NCAA field has become an expectation at SCU.

But looking back at the season of 2012, the SCU team and its student-athletes accomplished a great deal. The team was ranked as high as No. 32 nationally, went out to North Carolina and knocked off Duke on the road 2-1, defeated Stanford by the same score in early September, and reeled off four straight mid-season wins to firmly establish themselves as title contenders until the season's final day.

Team co-captain's, junior defender Mark Daus and fifth-year senior midfielder Murphy Campbell, led the Broncos to a 10-2-2 record in the year's final 12 matches – showing their collective character and resilience by bouncing back from a 1-4 start. SCU would benefit from award-winning play from senior classmates, forward Erik Hurtado and goalkeeper Larry Jackson, while also getting a boost of new energy from freshman forward Ryan Masch.

Hurtado, Jackson and Masch immediately earned early-season accolades. Each were named All-Tournament players at Duke's John Rennie/Nike Invitational in early September.

Hurtado was so exceptional from September all the way through November, the final-year Bronco from Beaverton, Ore. finished the season as a finalist for the 2012 Soccer News National Player of the Year award. Hurtado led the WCC in virtually every offensive category, and among all NCAA players ranked fifth in points per game (1.95), sixth in goals per game (0.79) and eighth in both total points (37) and total goals (15). Hurtado was tabbed as the WCC Player of the Year and became the 14th All-American in Santa Clara history. In early January of 2013, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC selected Hurtado No. 5 overall in the MLS SuperDraft.

Jackson, from nearby East Palo Alto, Calif. and a product of the U.S. National Team system, posted seven shutouts in 2012 and made 60 saves. Jackson drew praise as a 2012 NSCAA All-Far West Region Third Team player and was named the 2012 WCC Goalkeeper of the Year.

With Hurtado scoring goals at a record-setting pace and Daus and co. holding down the back line for Jackson, Santa Clara entered its annual road match at Portland on Oct. 9, locked in a first-place tie with the Pilots, with both teams sitting at 3-1 in WCC play and looking for a pivotal league victory.  In thrilling, overtime fashion, in a game that saw Portland force extra time by scoring with 24 seconds left, SCU junior Keigo Kameya netted a dramatic game-winning goal to give the Broncos control of first place.

SCU seemed to have a flair for the dramatic in 2012. Coming off a double-overtime draw Halloween night against St. Mary's and needing a result to remain atop the standings on the second day of November, the Broncos rallied from a man down, getting a short-handed game-winning goal from Phillip Muscarella with 1:45 left in regulation to beat rival USF 1-0 at Negoesco Field in San Francisco.

Separated by just two points entering the season's final weekend of play - as many had predicted and speculated - it was going to be either Santa Clara or San Diego emerging with the WCC trophy and earning the league's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

The Broncos controlled their own destiny, but would be travelling south to face always-tough LMU, then that red-hot San Diego team. USD would be hosting St. Mary's prior to entertaining the Broncos. The stage was set.

In a match that could have gone either way, SCU and LMU battled to a scoreless draw on Friday afternoon, Nov. 9 in Los Angeles. The result gave San Diego the knowledge, it could clinch the title later that night on its home field at Torero Stadium against the Gaels. USD's 2-0 victory over St. Mary's, coupled with SCU's draw with LMU decided it.

The fact Santa Clara went down to San Diego two days later and posted a 3-2 victory did not matter. Despite beating USD twice during the regular season, for the second straight year, SCU would be on the outside looking in on selection Monday. 

2012 Santa Clara Soccer Highlights
* Santa Clara posts 24th winning season in past 26 years
* SCU goes 8-2-2 in WCC play and 11-6-2 overall
* Erik Hurtado named NSCAA Third Team All-American
* Erik Hurtado named the 2012 WCC Player of the Year
* Erik Hurtado is drafted No. 5 overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft
* Larry Jackson named the 2012 WCC Goalkeeper of the Year
* 2012 NCAA Men's Division I NSCAA All-Far West Team: Erik Hurtado (First Team), Larry Jackson (Third Team)
* Eight Broncos garner All-WCC honors; First Team: Mark Daus, Erik Hurtado, Larry Jackson; Freshman Team: Ryan Masch, Max Ornstil; Honorable Mention: Murphy Campbell, Ryan Masch, Carlos Montes and Matt Escobar
* Glenn Vass named WCC All-Academic
* Broncos shutout seven opponents, allow league-low 9 goals in WCC play
* SCU totals a 6-1-1 record on the road
* Broncos go 4-1-1 at home vs. WCC
* Broncos top Duke and Stanford on the road
* Erik Hurtado named WCC Player of the Month (September) – led the league and ranked among nation's top 10 in goals, points, goals per game, points per game
* Larry Jackson named College Sports Madness West Coast Player of Week (Oct. 1)
* Erik Hurtado Soccer News Net National Player of the Year Finalist; TopDrawerSoccer.com National Team of the Week (Oct. 29); College Sports Madness West Coast Player of the Week (Oct. 15)
* Three Broncos named WCC Player of the Week: Ryan Masch (Sept. 17), Erik Hurtado (Oct. 1), Keigo Kameya (Oct. 15)
* Cameron Rast reaches 125 coaching victories (125-64-40)
* SCU hosts Portland on national TV, Fox Soccer Channel (Oct. 26) 
* Broncos ranked as high as No. 32 nationally by TopDrawerSoccer.com