Aug. 22, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's soccer team has not failed to reach the College Cup in back-to-back years since 1994-95, and the 2006 Broncos do not intend to break that stretch. Following a 2005 season which saw them extend the nation's longest current streak by advancing to the NCAA Quarterfinal round for the 11th year in a row before falling 2-1 to Penn State on a frigid night in Happy Valley, the Broncos return to the pitch this Friday night at Buck Shaw Stadium to begin the march to their 11th College Cup.
The 2006 season kicks off Friday with the seventh edition of the Santa Clara adidas Classic, featuring three NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago, besides the Broncos. Joining SCU will be the No. 23 Wake Forest Demon Deacons, No. 19 Stanford Cardinal, and the defending Mountain West Conference champion Utah Utes.
Tickets are available to all matches by calling 408-554-4660 or visiting the Leavey Center ticket office.
Santa Clara opens up the season at 7:30 p.m. against the Demon Deacons of the Atlantic Coast Conference, following the opening match at 5 p.m. between Stanford and Utah. Sunday, the Cardinal and Demon Deacons will open up play with an 11 a.m. match, followed by Santa Clara and Utah at 1:30 p.m.
Head coach Jerry Smith, with a career record of 311-79-26 (.779), will enter his 20th season at the helm of the Santa Clara program Friday night, and is looking forward to the debut of a squad that returns 10 of 11 starters from last year and nine hungry and talented newcomers.
"I'd say that our best player in the preseason right now is Marian Dalmy, she's just been playing tremendously," Smith said. "She's come back nicely [from a knee injury suffered last year] and has been a real leader out there. Lauren Zealear is such a gamer, and I think that she is going to have a tremendous impact on the games this weekend and for the rest of the season."
"Up front, [freshman] Kiki Bosio has looked great in training, she's going to have an impact in our scoring potential and attacking presence," Smith continued. "And another freshman, [defender] Lindsey Johnson, is a naturally left-footed player, and we haven't had that in a couple of years, and I think that on the virtue of her being exceptional with the ball on her left side should really impact the next several games"
With the team's two leading scorers from 2005, junior forward Jordan Angeli (12 goals, five assists, 29 points) and senior forward Tina Estrada (11 goals, five assists, 27 points) absent for the opening weekend due to U.S. youth national team commitment and injury, respectively, as well as sophomore midfielder Amanda Poach, who is also currently with the U.S. Under-20 team in Russia, this weekend is a prime opportunity for some more Broncos to carve out a place for themselves in the lineup.
Forwards Meagan Snell (five goals, six assists, 16 points) and Elyse Shelger (three goals, three assists, nine points) return to an attack that outscored opponents 47-15 in 2005. The front is bolstered by the addition of Bosio and fellow freshman Lexi Orand, a veteran of the youth national teams and three-time NSCAA/adidas High School All-American.
Transfers Hillary Schwarzbach (from USC) and Chioma Igwe (California) will also add punch to the team. Schwarzbach brings a solid three years of experience to the back line while Igwe, a midfielder, should have no problem fitting into a Santa Clara system just like the one she played in for the Golden Bears. Igwe also becomes another addition to a budding family legacy, as older brother Kelechi starred for the SCU men's team from 2002-05, and younger brother Amaechi begins his Broncos career Friday night with the men's team at Stanford.
Brittany Klein, Tiffany Roberts and Hayley Siegel bring a combined 10 goals and nine assists in 2005 with them to the midfield, while on the back line, Schwarzbach will be joining a stingy crew that includes Dalmy, Zealear, and Johnson as well as 2005 Freshman All-American Dani Potts.
That back line, which shutout 13 opponents a year ago, will deploy in front of sophomore goalkeeper Meagan McCray this weekend, as senior Julie Ryder, one of the top netminders in Santa Clara history, completes her rehab from knee surgery back in the spring. McCray posted a 4-0-0 record with a pair of shutouts in 2005.
The Broncos will meet the 23rd-ranked Demon Deacons for the second year in a row, as the teams played to a scoreless draw in Winston-Salem, N.C. last season. Wake Forest returns All-America candidate Elizabeth Remy, the team's leading scorer in 2005 with six goals. Wake Forest ended last season with a 9-9-1 overall mark and a 4-6 tally in the tough ACC.
Sunday's contest with Utah will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Utes will look to repeat the success which led them to a 14-7-1 mark (6-0-1 MWC) and Mountain West title last year. Utah returns 18 letter-winners and nine starters, including the MWC's reigning Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in Amanda Feigt and Melissa Wayman, respectively, as well as reigning MWC Freshman of the Year Adele Letro.
"The ACC is typically known for very athletic teams and a very direct, fast style of play, so Wake Forest should definitely bring that," Smith said of Friday night's opponent. "We struggled with their speed and athleticism [in last season's match], so that will a real test for us on Friday. With Utah what you have is typically a group of bigger, stronger players, so it will be interesting to see how we handle those kinds of matchups this weekend. We'll learn a lot about ourselves."