April 6, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The road to continuing the nation's longest streak of 11-straight NCAA Tournament quarterfinal appearances and an 11th College Cup began this week as the Santa Clara women's soccer program kicked off spring training. The spring schedule includes matches against Bay Area rivals Stanford, Cal and San Jose State as well as a contest against pro club the Sacramento Storm.
Head coach Jerry Smith embarks on his 20th season leading the Bronco program, holding an overall record of 311-79-26 (.779). Last season, Smith became only the third Division I women's soccer head coach to reach the 300-win mark when the Broncos defeated Saint Louis 2-1 on September 23, 2005. In 2006 he will once again be assisted by coaches Erin Chastain, Curtis McAlister and Albertin Montoya.
Coming together this spring is a Broncos squad that graduated only three seniors from the 2005 team in co-captain Micaela Esquivel, Catherine Sigler and Jessica Ballweg. For now, the players are polishing up on their technical skills and building team chemistry.
"We try to accomplish several things at the beginning and during the spring season, and one of them is just knocking the rust off," Smith said. "Two, we're concentrating on the technical aspects of the game, dribbling, passing, receiving, getting those skills honed a little bit."
In addition to on-field drills and workouts, the coaching staff will also be keeping tabs on how this year's team is coming together. With Esquivel graduated, fellow 2005 co-captain Marian Dalmy still rehabilitating from a knee injury suffered in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, and 2005 leading scorer Jordan Angeli away on national-team duty with the U-20 team, conditions are ripe for new leaders to come forth.
"The other thing we're trying to do is see how the new team comes together," added Smith. "This is a new group of players, so slowly but surely we'll also experiment with some players at different positions. Lastly, we'll also provide an opportunity for new leaders to emerge. Our graduating seniors aren't practicing with us, so we need to establish some new leaders on our team.
"With Jordan and Amanda Poach not being with us this spring because they are with the U-20 national team preparing for the World Championships, it does not allow us to experiment as much as we'd like to," Smith continued. "But on the other hand, it provides the opportunity for someone else to get on the field and show what they can do playing in place of what would normally be starting players."
While the spring matches against the other Bay Area schools will provide an opportunity for players to shine, one of the other main objectives is meeting individual goals from the technical and tactical aspects.
"We try to take a very individual approach to coaching the team, so every player will have their own individual goals that they are trying to accomplish," Smith said about what he is looking for this spring season. "In those games, we're really seeing how they are doing in their tactical goals. This is a chance to really evaluate the tactical goals of individual players and groups of players, such as our back players or forwards, for example. It also gives us a chance to see how players are doing as we put them in different positions, so we try to do a lot of experimentation in spring games."
One of these events that Santa Clara will be participating in is the "Kicks Against Breast Cancer" Tournament at Stanford on Saturday, April 22. The Broncos will face San Jose State at 9 a.m. and Cal at 11:30 a.m. that day as they team up with Stanford and the Kicks Against Breast Cancer Initiative to help raise funds for breast cancer research. Admission to the event is free, but donations are encouraged. Bronco fans may also purchase pink "awareness" bracelets through the SCU Athletic Department for $2 by contacting Marketing Assistant Christine Gajdos at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (408) 554-4066.
For the first time, the Bronco men's and women's teams will be able to play their spring matches in Buck Shaw Stadium. The construction of the beautiful, new $8.9 million Stephen Schott Baseball Stadium provides the soccer programs with a dedicated facility that is available throughout the year.
Santa Clara is coming off of a 17-5-2 season which saw the team reach the NCAA quarterfinal round for the 11th year in a row. Although the season ended with a 2-1 defeat in frigid conditions at Penn State, the 2005 season saw its share of proud and memorable moments.
Along with Smith's career milestone, the 2005 season also saw the Broncos knock off the top-ranked team in the land and defending national champion Notre Dame 2-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium on September 9 behind a pair of Angeli goals. Angeli and junior Tina Estrada became SCU's first duo to score more than 10 goals each since Kristi Candau and Leslie Osborne did it in 2002. Ballweg, the final remaining member of Santa Clara's 2001 national championship team, also made her return to the pitch against Penn State after missing all but one game of the 2004 campaign and all of 2005 up to that point.
The Broncos will return 10 players from its 2005 Starting XI, as only Esquivel, an outside back, graduates. Eight of the nine Broncos to score a goal in 2005 will return as well, led by a pair of All-WCC players in Angeli and Estrada return along with Meagan Snell and Elyse Shelger at the forward position.
The midfield returns intact as All-WCC player Tiffany Roberts, Brittany Klein, Hayley Siegel and Poach will again star for the Broncos. Dalmy, an honorable mention All-America selection by Soccer Buzz and Soccer Times, and Courtney Lewis continue their rehab from knee injuries in 2005 while second-team All-WCC selection Lauren Zealear and All-WCC freshman team pick Danielle Potts will return to a back line that allowed only 15 goals last season.
All-WCC second-teamer Julie Ryder returns for her senior year to mind the net for Santa Clara. In 2006 Ryder will be chasing a pair of all-time school records as her 0.61 goals-against average is currently second-best in school history while heading into the 2006 season her 31 shutouts sit third, only three back of all-time leader Sue Wall ('93).
2006 Santa Clara Women's Soccer Spring Schedule
|Saturday||April 22||Stanford Kicks Against Breast Cancer Tournament||Stanford, Calif.||all day|
|Saturday||April 29||Cal (7 vs. 7)||Berkeley, Calif.||tba|
|Saturday||May 6||Sacramento Storm||Buck Shaw Stadium||1 p.m.|
|Thursday||May 25||Stanford||Buck Shaw Stadium||7 p.m.|