Aug. 16, 2001
When the Women's United Soccer Association began play in April 2001, 14 former Broncos were on professional rosters, making Santa Clara University the second-most represented Division I program in the league. Additionally, Santa Clara was the only collegiate program with representation on each of the eight teams.
Nine of those players will continue their season this weekend as the WUSA opens the playoffs with semifinal matches on Saturday.
The first semifinal will feature Jennifer Lalor '97 of the New York Power taking on four Bronco Alumni playing for the second-seeded Bay Area Cyber Rays: Brandi Chastain '91, Megan Horvath '01, Jacqui Little '00, and Lisa Naņez '99. The second playoff match will see Philadelphia Charge's Mandy Clemens '00 vs. a trio from the top-seeded Atlanta Beat: Kylie Bivens '99, Nikki Serlenga '99 and Dayna Smith '96. Bivens, Clemens, Horvath, Little, Naņez and Serlenga were all teammates on the 1999 SCU squad that went undefeated during the regular season reached the NCAA College Cup.
Of the 14 Broncos, Chastain, Clemens and Serlenga were among the WUSA's 24 founding players. The rest were selected through a WUSA draft held in December.
The regular season champion Atlanta Beat enters this weekend's semifinal match with a 10-4-7 record. Defensively, the Beat is the toughest team in the league to score on, surrendering only 21 goals. Defense begins in the midfield, and former SCU standouts Serlenga and Bivens have been a huge part of the Beat's success. The backline, once known as "The No-Name Defense," has become well known, including Smith in the middle. Offense has also been key to Atlanta's winning record, with Bivens contributing five assists to the cause, the eighth-best mark in WUSA statistics.
The Bronco foursome of forwards Little and Horvath, midfielder Chastain and defender Naņez have been key contributors playing in their collegiate hometown for the second-place CyberRays, who boast a 11-6-4 mark heading into this weekend's play. Chastain has started all 19 matches she's participated in, registering five assists for the Rays, tied for the eighth-best mark in the league. Chastain's international experience kept the opposing team close, as she was the fourth most-fouled player on the field, suffering 44 during the season. As a team captain, she was one of the most vocal too, ranking third in the league with four yellow cards administered to her over the summer.
The remaining CyberRays trio reunites former Bronco teammates from the 1999 season. Naņez has started 12 matches and blocked three goals, tied for third in the WUSA, while Little and Horvath are one of the first substitutes off the bench. In fact, Little scored her only goal of the season--a game-winner--against San Diego as a sub and registered an assist on the game-winner at New York within three minutes of entering the game.
The New York Power's Lalor has started 13 games at midfield this season, logging two assists as the team is 9-7-5 heading into Saturday's playoffs.
Clemens, the 1999 NCAA Player of the Year, is the lone SCU representative in Philadelphia (9-8-4). At 22 years of age, she was among the youngest founding league players. When play began in April, Clemens was used in a reserve role in her team's first three matches, but earned as starting spot and currently is second on the team in points, with 13. Her season has so-far been highlighted by a two-goal game against the Courage in early August.
San Diego (7-7-7) just missed the playoffs, finishing fifth, and are followed in the standings by the Boston Breakers (8-10-3), while the Carolina Courage and the Washington Freedom tied for seventh in the league standings with identical 6-12-3 marks.
Erin Martinez '97 and Kim Pickup `00 helped San Diego stay in the running for a playoff spot while Heather Aldama '01 really showed her stuff with the Breakers after completing the academic spring quarter at Santa Clara midway through the season. She had spent the first few months of league play traveling between Boston and the Bay Area, but once she focused complete attention on her game, she earned a starting spot at left back and was a key contributor the rest of the season. Aldama tied with Naņez for third in the league with three blocks defensively.
The Washington Freedom's Emmy Barr '96 and the Carolina Courage's Mikka Hansen '97 round out the Santa Clara contingent. On paper, both squads looked awesome, but neither found team rhythm, finishing the seasons out of the playoffs.
WUSA Playoff MatchesSemifinals
New York Power at Bay Area CyberRays
Aug. 18, 1:30 PT (TNT)
Philadelphia Charge at Atlanta Beat
Aug. 18, 3:45 PT (TNT)
Aug. 25, 11:00 AM PT Foxboro Stadium (TNT)