Nov. 16, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - There's nothing like a little bit of intrigue to add to the mix as the fifth-ranked Santa Clara Broncos and the No. 14 Boston College Eagles meet for the first time ever Saturday afternoon in an NCAA Third Round Tournament match.
After cruising through the tournament's first two rounds last weekend with a 5-0 win over Fresno State followed by a 4-0 shutout of Saint Louis, the Broncos (16-4-2) are on a nice roll heading into the third round against the Eagles (13-5-2).
"Boston College is a very good team, and anyone who is left in the Sweet 16 is having a great year," head coach Jerry Smith said about the Eagles. "The fact that they're in the ACC, they've got to be used to big games. They've played North Carolina, Virginia and Duke, these are good teams so they're not going to be intimidated by being in a big-game atmosphere."
Santa Clara is well-accustomed to big games, and two games into this tournament are clicking in all facets of the game. The defense remains as rocksteady and smothering as ever, having claimed their 12th and 13th shutouts of the season last weekend. Goalkeeper Julie Ryder became Santa Clara's all-time postseason leader in shutouts Sunday as she notched her eighth career postseason shutout, passing Crystal Gordon (1997-2000) for the top spot.
Offensively Santa Clara has found its groove as the nine goals in the past two games have come from seven different players. Tina Estrada continued her second-half roll with a pair of goals Friday against Fresno State and a pair of assists against Saint Louis on Sunday. Brittany Klein scored her first career postseason goal against the Billikens and added two assists to complete a four-point game, while Meagan Snell added a goal in each game.
"What we saw last weekend was the team clicking on all cylinders, our focus was good, our energy was good, and defensively we were very solid," Smith noted of the performance in the last two games. "For us to score nine goals in two games was very good and particularly with the goals we scored against Saint Louis, an outstanding defensive team, I was very impressed. It's nice to be playing our best soccer at this time of year and that's what we feel like we're doing."
At stake in Saturday's match is a trip to the quarterfinals where the winner will face off against the victor of the Penn State-Texas A&M match in University Park, Penn. The Broncos are the only team in the nation to have reached the Round of Eight in each of the last ten years, and only the Eagles stand in the way of an 11th-straight trip.
"The key for us, in any NCAA playoff game, is to focus on Santa Clara," Smith added. "Our team, in our history, has been successful in the tournament because we continue to focus on what we do. That we're not playing a team that we know extremely well, in some way helps prevent us from being consumed by what they do and rather just focus on who we are, and I think that gives us the best chance going forward in the tournament."
Saturday's match between the Broncos and Eagles is set to kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Buck Shaw Stadium. Tickets are available by calling (408) 554-4660 and Bronco fans can follow all the action live with Gametracker and listen to the game for free on www.santaclarabroncos.com.