Feb. 9, 2006
By Brian Witter
The Santa Clara
The Santa Clara women's soccer team has worked for and built a solid tradition over the last decade that includes an NCAA Championship and an historic 11 straight quarterfinal appearances in the postseason tournament. Last week, head coach Jerry Smith announced his 2006 recruiting class of freshmen that he hopes will enhance that legacy.
Ranked by Soccer Buzz magazine as being among the top 10 classes in the nation, the group of six high school seniors who signed National Letters of Intent with Santa Clara include California natives Jenna Belcher of Rolling Hills Estates, Kiki Bosio of Mission Viejo, Elizabeth Moul of San Jose, Alexa Orand of Orange, and out-of-staters Lindsey Johnson of Phoenix and Katherine Reynolds of Medina, Wash.
Belcher, Bosio and Orand were listed as being a part of the top 25 recruits in the nation, while Johnson was among the top 50. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill signed the most top recruits with eight, but Smith asserts that what his future players may have liked about Santa Clara could not easily be found at a big name school like North Carolina or UCLA.
"Different players are always looking for different things when they're looking at schools," Smith said. "We have a smaller school environment which some kids look at as a big positive. Also, the style of play to be found here is drastically different from UNC who might be looking for a big, strong athlete first. I'm more likely to recruit someone who is tactically aware rather than for size."
Forward Alexa Orand from El Modena High School in Orange was named the adidas All-American Youth Soccer Player of the Year in 2005 and has already played at the national level for the U-19 women's U.S. team that finished third at the world championships.
Fellow forward Kiki Bosio, who also hails from Southern California, was named a high school All-American three years consecutively and played with Orand as an alternate on the U-19 team.
Bosio already has experience winning titles as she played with fellow recruit Jenna Belcher on the United States Youth Soccer Association club team that won the national championship in 2002 and 2005.
"Both Alexa and Kiki bring a great deal of experience to our front line," Smith said. "They're among the top 5-10 recruits in the country and are already extremely dedicated, committed and mature young women. It's amazing that out of the six freshmen that we signed, five will be competing for starting spots come next season."
Belcher, who is a defender and also a high school All-American, played on the U-16 and U-17 national teams and scouting reports believe her to be one of the most versatile and tactically skilled players to come out of California.
Defender Lindsey Johnson played with the adidas All-Star youth team in high school and has played in Germany and the Netherlands. Smith is especially excited about Johnson since she is a naturally left-footed player.
"Having a left-footed player in soccer is akin to having a left-handed pitcher in baseball," Smith said. "They are able to do things strategically on the field that you wouldn't get from someone who is right-footed. Jenna and Lindsey will both be competing for the back-line spots vacated by Micaela Esquivel and Cat Sigler due to graduation."
Rounding out the six freshmen is defender Elizabeth Moul, a local from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, and forward Katherine Reynolds from Washington state. Moul is the fifth member of her family to attend Santa Clara and plays club soccer in the South Bay. Reynolds was MVP of her high school team at University Prep in Medina and led the team to a state title in 2004.
"Katherine is probably not the most tactical of players, but she is a phenomenal athlete and probably the most physical player in the group," said head coach Jerry Smith. "Liz played under former Bronco Devvyn Hawkins on her club and also under my brother-in-law, Chad Chastain, so she should have no trouble fitting in here at Santa Clara."
Smith, a 19-year veteran of Mission Campus soccer, admits that Santa Clara's style of play and his coaching methods may be somewhat unconventional as he tends to recruit brains over brawn. However, his system has turned the Broncos from the makings of a club team nearly two decades ago into one of the strongest NCAA Division I programs in the country.
"Each coach personifies what they enjoyed most about the game," Smith said. "I myself was never the biggest so I tried to play smart. I'll use Steve Nash as an example. He's not a big guy, but he plays smart and is skillfully aware of his role in the game. Now he's the NBA MVP. We always try to recruit a certain caliber of player, one who is going to use their fundamentals and go one step further in being creative."
Next year's senior Bronco class was ranked No. 1 by Soccer Buzz and is looking forward to next season and another visit to the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the top seed in their bracket, Penn State, defeated the Santa Clara squad by a score of 2-1 in the quarterfinals. Jerry Smith earned his 300th win in collegiate competition last year and is only the third women's soccer coach in NCAA history to do so.