Broncos Bucked Odds in Beating Tar Heels

Nov. 26, 2004

by Dwight Chapin
San Francisco Chronicle

The hardest part might be over, but that doesn't mean the Santa Clara women's soccer team can start breathing easily any time soon.

Last weekend, the Broncos recorded what has to rank as one of the biggest upsets ever in college soccer, knocking off undefeated, No. 1-seeded and 17- time national champion North Carolina--at Chapel Hill, N.C., no less--in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

It definitely was a moment to remember, said senior forward Megan Kakadelas, who scored the winning goal in the Broncos' 1-0 overtime victory, and made herself the poster player on the NCAA's Web site this week.

"I was probably way more excited about winning the game than scoring the goal," said Kakadelas, who transferred to Santa Clara from USC three years ago. "We were all just ecstatic, on cloud nine."

Now it's time to come down and revisit reality, in the form of the Fighting Illini of Illinois, who will meet the 16th-seeded Broncos in the tournament quarterfinals Saturday at 1 p.m. at Buck Shaw Stadium.

"This is going to be a really hard game for us, I know," Kakadelas said, "because we're coming off such a big win and Illinois is a good team."

The Illini , coached by former North Carolina star player Janet Rayfield, are 16-5-2 to Santa Clara's 17-4-2 this season and have dangerous weapons in senior forward Tara Hurless, her school's all-time goal scoring and assists leader; sophomore forward Jessica Bayne, and senior goalkeeper Leisha Alcia.

"We're just going to have to give it everything we've got again," Kakadelas said, "come out the same way we did against North Carolina."

Kakadelas thinks the impetus for the historic win over the Tar Heels may well have been the memory of the Broncos' 3-0 playoff loss at North Carolina last year.

"That was such a big disappointment," she said. "I think maybe having that feeling last year made us realize we didn't want to have it again."

Kakadelas said the Broncos had "meeting after meeting" last week, and in practice they worked against the likes of three U.S. national players, ex- Broncos Brandi Chastain, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner, and even some Santa Clara men's players.

"That was awesome," Kakadelas said. "It definitely helped, because North Carolina has a couple of great forwards, including Heather O'Reilly, who is ridiculously fast. No girls we play against can emulate that kind of speed."

The night before the game, coach Jerry Smith also showed his team a videotape of Santa Clara's national championship win in 2001, which turned out to be a real inspiration.

"We almost looked like that 2001 team when we got onto the field Saturday, " Kakadelas said. "I can't even tell you the heart and determination we played with against North Carolina."