Nov. 9, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Sure they've been there before. Actually, 16 times before. Still, in their 17th-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and heading into Friday's first-round match with Fresno State, the No. 5 Santa Clara Broncos aim to follow the same formula for success that has led them to 10 College Cups: One Match at a Time.
"That is one of the keys to being successful in the tournament," head coach Jerry Smith noted about his team's match-to-match approach. "We look at every single opponent we play in the NCAAs as a team that could potentially end our season and we don't want that to happen. You really have to be very focused and be able to play for 90 minutes regardless of your opponent. We're going through a week of very through preparation and I think we'll be very ready to play Fresno State on Friday."
The Broncos (14-4-2) enter the 2005 NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed in their quadrant of the bracket, earning the right to host the first weekend of action. Their journey to an 11th College Cup begins Friday at 5 p.m. against a familiar foe, the Fresno State Bulldogs (10-9-1). The two teams previously met on Oct. 7, with the Broncos prevailing 2-0 on the strength of a pair of Jordan Angeli goals and two saves from Meagan McCray, who earned the first shutout of her college career.
Since that loss, the Bulldogs have gone 7-2, including an impressive run of three-straight victories in the WAC Tournament last weekend. As the fifth seed in the six-team draw, the Bulldogs defeated Utah State, regular-season champion Hawaii, and then San Jose State to earn the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, their second appearance in school history.
Yet just as the Broncos will expect a different Fresno State team from the one they saw a month ago, Santa Clara has also hit its stride and heads into familiar ground this weekend.
"One of our keys in the tournament has really been to get to the point with our team where we can focus on what we're doing and if we can execute our normal attacking and defensive schemes well, then we'll be successful against anyone that we play," Smith said.
Santa Clara boasts a deep squad that will execute those schemes to the letter. Goalkeeper Julie Ryder enters her third postseason with six career shutouts in nine tournament games, including key blankings of Portland in 2003's third round, North Carolina in last season's third round and Illinois in the 2004 quarterfinals. Ryder has accumulated eight shutouts thus far in 2005 along with a goals-against average of 0.59.
In front of Ryder stands a formidable back line that has posted eleven shutouts on the season. Led by central defenders Lauren Zealear and Danielle Potts, the Broncos have given up only four goals in the last nine matches. Outside backs and co-captains Marian Dalmy and Micaela Esquivel serve the team in dual roles, both providing defensive help when needed and pushing the attack from the flanks to create scoring opportunities.
On the attacking side of the ball, Santa Clara puts forth a versatile group that includes five players with at least three goals on the season. Angeli leads the squad with 10 goals and 24 points, while Tina Estrada is right behind her with eight goals and 19 points in 2005.
Friday's match provides the 2005 Santa Clara Broncos with the opportunity to make their mark on history. How the team performs in the tournament is what defines a Santa Clara team, Smith notes, and how certain players step up during the course of the tournament determines that next Leslie Osborne or Aly Wagner.
"What makes us special is what we've been able to do in the tournament, that's what sets our program apart from most of the other programs in the country," Smith said in response to how the 2005 squad compares with tournament teams of the past. "We can't compare them with other teams until the end of the tournament, because it's the NCAA Tournament which has been the defining factor for past teams so we're about to find that out."
Santa Clara will set out to make its own path into the history books Friday evening at 5 p.m. as they begin the quest for the College Cup against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Tickets are on sale now and are available by calling (408) 554-4660.