May 21, 2004
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 2004 schedule by head coach Jerry Smith. The 20-match slate features 10 programs that advanced to last year's NCAA Championship, including three of the top eight seeds.
For the first time since 1992, the Broncos will open the season with seven straight road contests. The 2004 schedule will kick off at Cal Poly on Friday, August 27 at 7 p.m. and then move on to tournaments at Notre Dame, Rutgers and Stanford.
"Playing a heavy road schedule early on is normal for us," Smith explained. "Sometimes there's a home game squeezed in there, but it really is by design, and for two reasons. First, we can travel in August without missing class time and therefore have more home games when the students are on campus and can fill our stands. Secondly, we can schedule NCAA Tournament teams and have a lot of fun road trips prior to the start of the fall quarter."
In the Broncos' first tournament, the Fighting Irish were the NCAA's No. 2 seed last season, while SMU was also a postseason participant. Santa Clara will remain in that part of the country for a tournament the following weekend, when senior defender Jessica Ballweg will lead the Broncos to her home state of New Jersey to take on NCAA participant Rutgers and Rhode Island.
"It's a section of the country that has some amazing young players as well as one of the best youth clubs in the country," Smith added. "It's wonderful for Jess to have this homecoming, and it's also an important opportunity for us to show off our team to an area of the country we've never taken our program before."
Santa Clara will open the home season with the ninth annual Santa Clara/adidas Classic on Sept. 24 and 26, which annually features some of the nation's finest teams. This year, the Broncos will host Stanford, Marquette and Denver, with the Cardinal making its sixth trip to the Classic. The Golden Eagles and the Pioneers will be making their first appearance at the event.
Additionally, the Broncos' preseason features four new opponents to the program, in Rutgers, Rhode Island, Yale and Denver, as well as three other teams Santa Clara has faced only once previously (SMU, CS Fullerton and Marquette).
"It is always interesting to play different teams from other parts of the country and find out what they are about," Smith said. "It adds another twist to our schedule, as we really won't know a lot about each team prior to meeting them on the field."
SCU will play three Pac-10 schools to close the non-conference season. The Broncos will host Stanford on September 30 and California on October 6, with a road trip to UCLA in between, on October 3. In West Coast Conference play, the Broncos will host San Diego, Portland and Pepperdine, all of whom advanced to the tournament last season.
"The conference is going to be very strong again this year," Smith cautioned. "Portland won the championship two years ago, but I think this next year, the Pilots are clearly going to be even stronger. We could get as many as five teams in the NCAA Tournament, as we did two years ago. And even the teams that haven't historically advanced have shown improvement. I just really don't think there are any easy games in this league; we boast one of the toughest conferences in the nation."
Santa Clara will also host San Jose State to kick off the third year of the schools' Rivalry Series. The match is set for Tuesday, October 26 at 7 p.m.
The Broncos will begin its quest for the national championship and aim for its 10th overall College Cup appearance when the NCAA Championship begins the weekend of Nov. 12. Individual schools will host the first through fourth rounds, with the 23rd annual College Cup being hosted by North Carolina State University and the Capital Area Soccer League in Cary, N.C., on Dec. 3 and 5.
Santa Clara returns a core of experienced returnees to the 2004 team, led by seven seniors: All-American and 2003 WCC Player of the Year Leslie Osborne, All-WCC forwards Megan Kakadelas and Bree Horvath, defenders Ballweg, Lana Bowen and Monika Sola, and goalkeeper Alyssa Sobolik.
The team is currently fundraising for a potential preseason experience abroad in August, to Costa Rica. It would mark the first such trip in program history, and the benefits are many, according to Smith.
"In past years, we've played Notre Dame and Stanford early in the season, right after they've taken a foreign trip, and to see how far ahead they were in their season's progression makes me very excited about how much further ahead we could be as well," he added. "We could bring in our players a little early, train them and play them against international competition. It provides a good opportunity to really get ourselves ready for the NCAA Championship. I'm excited about that."
Please Click Here for the complete 2004 schedule.