Oct. 12, 2001
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Friday night was a battle of preseason No. 1 and No. 2 picks by the coaches in the West Coast Conference, and the game lived up to its hype at Buck Shaw Stadium. Santa Clara University (5-6-0, 1-0-0 WCC) got goals from freshmen Eric Irvine and Steve Cronin late in each half to pull out the 2-1 victory over defending WCC Champion and eighth-ranked University of San Diego (7-2-0, 0-1-0 WCC).
The Broncos, who were picked to finish second in the WCC, scored their first goal with only :02 remaining in the first half when freshman Eric Irvine headed home a goal off passes from Scott McLain and Kellen Gilmore. After the final two ticks ran off the first half clock, Santa Clara held the 1-0 advantage over the preseason favorites in the WCC.
The second half was one for the ages as the two teams combined for 17 shots while the ball moved back and forth across the midfield stripe time and time again. The Toreros got the equalizer at the 59:55 mark when Scott Martin slipped the ball below the Bronco netminder, Rusty Johnson, after a great feed into open space from Scott Burcar.
The score remained tied at 1-1 and looked headed for overtime after both teams had good chances but could not convert. Santa Clara head coach Mitch Murray then made a tactical move late in the second half when he put in the freshman netminder Steve Cronin up front at forward. The move paid off as Cronin scored his first collegiate goal with only :28 left in regulation on a sliding kick that made it past the USD goalkeeper Justin Neerhof.
Cronin's goal was set up perfectly by Keith Burden who sent a low ball from left to right inside the 18-yard mark. The goal surely pleased the 1,388 in attendance as it set off an jubilant eruption at Buck Shaw Stadium.
"The win was huge," said Murray after the game. "We put a lot of importance on this game becasue we do have to win the conference in order to get into the tournament at this point. The goal heading into halftime was a big, big goal. It set off a huge reaction that kept us going in the second half. They came back and tied it later in the game, but the key was our guys didn't get rattled. We kept playing hard, and to score the game-winner with just :28 seconds remaining was just a big thrill for us."
Santa Clara will resume play next Friday night with another WCC game against the University of San Francisco at Negoesco Stadium in San Francisco. Following that contest the Bronocos will host the Stanford Cardinal at Buck Shaw Stadium on Sunday, October 21 at 6 p.m.