April 28, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's soccer team will aim for its 10th overall appearance in the College Cup this season with the announcement of the 2003 schedule by head coach Jerry Smith. The 20-match schedule features 12 programs that advanced to last year's NCAA Championship, included four of the top eight seeds. The Broncos will host eight of those matches at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The 2003 season kicks off against UCLA at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 29. Last season, the Bruins were ranked third when the Broncos upset them in overtime in Los Angeles. Santa Clara is 4-0 against UCLA in the all-time series between the schools.
"We won't be able to be forever undefeated against UCLA," Smith said, "but hopefully, the first time we lose to the Bruins won't be in an NCAA tournament and won't be a home match to open the season.
"They're pretty upset about losing to us, this past year especially," he added. "They had us 1-0 at halftime, at their place, and with Aly Wagner not in the game. For us to come back and win that surprised them. I'm sure that left a bad taste in their mouth that they'll be wanting to avenge.
"Additionally, it's a great motivator to know that you're playing a great team in the first game at home in front of a great crowd, and if you're not very good, you're going to get embarrassed. After our loss to Stanford to start last season, our team has been motivated by that thought this spring, and will carry it through the summer and into preseason."
SCU will also host 2002 NCAA teams California, Notre Dame and USC. In West Coast Conference play, the Broncos will host Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and Portland, all of whom also advance to the tournament last season.
"From start to finish, we're playing the most talented teams in the country on our home field," Smith said. "It will force us to be sharp each week of the season and that can only help us as we aim for the NCAA Tournament."
The Broncos will host the eighth annual Santa Clara/adidas Classic on Sept. 19 and 21, which annually features some of the nation's finest teams. This year, the Broncos will host Stanford, Notre Dame and Georgia, with the Cardinal making its fifth trip to the Classic, while the Irish is returning for the first time since the inaugural 1996 event. The Bulldogs will be making their first trip to Buck Shaw.
"The fans that come out to those matches will see four great games in one weekend," Smith said.
The road schedule will also be a challenge, with the Broncos facing NCAA participants Virginia, Penn State and Stanford during the non-conference season and San Diego during WCC play. Santa Clara will end its regular season on the road for only the fourth time in the last 10 seasons, when it visits Gonzaga on Nov. 8.
Smith pointed out that with his team being the national champions in 2001 and the runners-up in 2002, the target on the Broncos' back hasn't gotten any smaller.
"People are still looking at us as a team they are going to need to beat if they are going to be serious at winning a national championship," he explained. "Teams like Penn State and Virginia have the talent to do that. That weekend will be a tough test for us on the road."
The Broncos will begin its quest for the national championship and aim for its third straight College Cup appearance-and 10th overall-when the NCAA Championship begins the weekend of Nov. 14. Individual schools will host the first through fourth rounds, with the 22nd annual College Cup being hosted by North Carolina State University and the Capital Area Soccer League in Cary, N.C., on Dec. 5 and 7.
Smith concluded with some thoughts on conference play.
"The Pac-10 and WCC are the two top conferences in the country for women's soccer and it's been fun to be a part of that shift," he said. "Just playing in our conference will present tremendous challenges for us. Our conference sent five teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, with two playing for the championship... that speaks very highly for the competitive nature of our league. If our non-conference schedule doesn't beat us up enough, our conference schedule will; but again, the benefit of playing a schedule like that, is that all of your weaknesses have been exposed and you should be battled-tested for an NCAA Championship run."