Nov. 23, 2000
By Lisa Eskey
Senior forward Megan Horvath has had her share of injuries. But this season, aside from a pulled quadriceps muscle that sidelined her for one match in September, Horvath has played the 2000 schedule injury free.
"It feels really good to be playing," she said. "Injuries can set you back so much."
And on this Thanksgiving weekend, she inadvertently added, "I'm just so thankful that nothing has happened this season."
And although nothing "bad" has happened to Horvath this season, plenty of "good" has.
Last week, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the Broncos faced eighth-ranked Brigham Young in Provo, on a field the Cougars hadn't lost on in two-plus seasons. In the 102nd minute of overtime, Horvath received the ball and turned to find what seemed like a "huge" goal in front of her with only two defenders to beat. Dribbling between them, she saw a flash of head coach Jerry Smith's instructions on how to score in a one-on-one situation: "shoot it low and right next to the goalie's feet." She did, and the Broncos won 2-1 to advance to tonight's quarterfinal, becoming only the second team since the NCAA expanded to a field 48 in 1998, to reach the quarterfinal without a first-round bye.
"I was in shock," Horvath said after scoring her third NCAA Tournament game-winning goal. "Only two days before we had been working on breakaways in practice. Coach hasn't worked on them all year, but I guess he had a feeling it might come in handy soon."
"Megan defines heart, guts and toughness," Smith said. "We've played some really critical matches this year and that she has come through for the team is no surprise. She's exactly the kind of player we need at the end of the year."
Horvath's heroics began her freshman year. Entering the season she recalled that she didn't wasn't even sure she would be playing. But in the team's second match of the season, against Cal Poly, Horvath scored a goal that sent the match into overtime. She then scored the game-winner.
"That felt great," she recalled. "I really had no idea what kind of impact I would have on the team."
Horvath played in all 24 contests that season, starting 16. She earned the West Coast Conference's Freshman of the Year award and was one of five Broncos to finish the season with 20 or more points, posting 25.
After that season, Horvath broke her left leg in a collision with a goalkeeper while playing with the Olympic Development Program. Taking a little longer to heal than expected, Horvath was out for five months, missing the spring soccer season. She returned to the team in the summer and tore cartilage in her right knee. Missing a total of nine months in off-season training, Horvath saw action in all 24 matches as a sophomore, but only started on four occasions and finished the year with five goals.
She came back ready for her junior season, but 11 matches into the year, while leading the team with seven goals, Horvath tore the ACL in her left knee during a mid-week practice. Her early-season play was good enough to earn honorable mention All-WCC honors. This season, she has already posted nine goals and five assists. With 31 career goals, she is ninth all-time in Santa Clara annals.
A win tonight would send Horvath and five fellow seniors to their fourth straight semifinal appearance in the NCAA Championship. And although this year's squad has lost more matches (6) in 2000 than the last three team combined (5), Horvath said it has only helped the team.
"I felt we were almost invincible last season," she said of a team that went undefeated in the regular season. "This year, we've learned that we can lose. We've worked through those losses, and as seniors, we know how sad it is to go off on a losing note. We don't want that again, and we're motivating all the younger players to work hard."
Horvath, who will be graduating in the spring with a degree in marketing, said she is enjoying this year as her last in collegiate soccer.
"I'm not sure what I'll be doing next," she concluded. "I've loved being a part of a team, to be with a group of girls that are as fun as these are... but, at the same time, it will be nice to relax just a little bit."