Oct. 26, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Just as countless Santa Clara women's soccer legends were honored before their final regular-season home match at Buck Shaw Stadium, so too will "Class of 2005" members Jessica Ballweg, Micaela Esquivel and Catherine Sigler. The defensive trio, along with the rest of the Broncos, will seek to mark Senior Day with a victory over the Loyola Marymount Lions Sunday afternoon at The Shaw.
"All three of our seniors have been tremendous assets to our program and we're looking forward to honoring them this Sunday," Head coach Jerry Smith said about Sunday's match. "It's really a chance for the whole team, all week long, to show the seniors how much we appreciate what they've done for our program, not just this year but in their careers at Santa Clara."
Though a fractured leg in the 2004 season opener has prevented Ballweg from returning to action thus far, her perseverance and dedication to the program leaves a possibility that she may be able to take the pitch once again before the end of the 2005 season.
One unique point about Ballweg's Senior Day honors is that she is the last remaining active player from Santa Clara's 2001 National Championship team. Her College Cup resumé includes two appearances (2001 & '02), an assist on Aly Wagner's national-title-winning goal in the 1-0 victory over North Carolina, and Defensive Most Valuable Player honors at the 2002 College Cup. In 2003 the Metuchen, N.J. native started all 24 contests, was named to Soccer Buzz' West Region and the WCC's second teams, and was honored by Union County (N.J.) with the Joseph R. Lombardi Memorial Award as Best Woman Athlete of the Year.
Sigler, a Windsor, Calif. native who transferred to Santa Clara her sophomore year from Notre Dame, has been one of Santa Clara's most dependable defenders in her time on the Mission Campus. Although she saw action in only 13 matches in her first year at SCU, she worked her way into the everyday starting lineup as the following year she started 20 of 23 contests and was part of an unrelenting back line that posted 15 shutouts on the season. In 2005, Sigler has played a significant role on another solid Broncos defense, one that posted a five-match shutout streak earlier in the season and to date has shut out 10 opponents in 2005.
The third senior to be honored this Sunday is team co-captain and defensive rock Micaela Esquivel. The Albuquerque, N.M. native has been a vital contributor to the Broncos from her first match in 2002. Esquivel's name has been in Santa Clara's Starting XI for 70 of her 72 career matches heading into Sunday, and in her defensive role has managed to net 10 goals and 13 assists over the last four seasons. She wears the captain's armband as an able leader, proved earlier this season against California as her lone goal of the season gave the Broncos the equalizer in the 67th minute and allowed SCU to eventually come out on top in double-overtime,
Along with Ballweg, Esquivel is another member of Santa Clara's 2002 College Cup squad, and one notable factoid from that postseason run is that in the national semifinal against North Carolina, her diving save while positioned on the goal line prevented a first-half Tarheel goal that eventually proved decisive in the Broncos' 2-1 triumph.
As for the match itself Sunday afternoon, the Lions (5-8-4, 1-3-1 WCC), led by leading scorers Lori Sims and Kelly Lewandowski, travel north to Buck Shaw Stadium with some momentum, having won their first WCC match of the season last Sunday with a 1-0 double-overtime win against San Francisco. The fifth-ranked Broncos (13-3-2, 3-1-1 WCC), however, head into their final regular-season home match looking not only to solidify their standing in the WCC but also build some momentum of their own in the season's final two weeks.
"We only have two weeks left in our regular season, so we really have to create some momentum going into the tournament, and we really have to come to a point where we're doing all the little things right," Smith commented on his team's goals in the season's final two weeks. "One benefit is that we only have two matches left in these last two weeks, so we're going to get players healthy and rested, have a lot of quality training time and hone in on the little things that it's going to take for us to win in the NCAA Tournament."
The Broncos will begin building their momentum for the postseason this Sunday as they kick things off against the Lions at 1 p.m. at Buck Shaw Stadium. Pregame festivities will include an on-field ceremony honoring Santa Clara's three graduating seniors and their families in their final regular-season home contest. Tickets are available by calling (408) 554-4660.