Aug. 31, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Armed with it's first No. 1 ranking in three years and it's first 2-0-0 start since the national championship season of 2001, the top-ranked (Soccer Buzz) Santa Clara women's soccer team travels to South Bend this weekend to kick off a string of three straight weekends on the road. Waiting for the Broncos this time are the Harvard Crimson, and familiar foe also sitting atop the Soccer Times rankings, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Friday's match against Harvard will begin at 2 p.m. PT, while Sunday's clash with the Irish is set for an 11 a.m. PT start and will be televised live on ESPNU.
The contest between top-ranked Santa Clara and Harvard will be the first-ever meeting of the two teams, while the Broncos and Irish will be coming face-to-face for the sixth time in the last five seasons. Notre Dame holds a slight 3-2 edge over the Broncos in the previous five encounters, but SCU holds the most recent victory, defeating the then-No. 1 Irish 2-1 at Buck Shaw Stadium last Sept. 9. Also, the Broncos have faced the Irish three times overall when ND was ranked No. 1 in the land, and holds victories in two of those contests.
"We like this match for all the right reasons," said Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith. "We're both perennial top-five teams, and I'm sure just like we prepared for Notre Dame a year ago and talked about how they beat us the season before, Notre Dame this week is probably talking about what a great test it will be to face Santa Clara in light of us beating them last year."
One can be sure that the Irish do remember that loss, as it was their first defeat since winning the 2004 national title, having eliminated Santa Clara 1-0 in the semifinals.
"You remember things like that. Even if the coaches don't address it, the players remember the feeling they had," Smith said of facing off against a rival that got the best of the team the last time.
The Broncos are coming off of a pair of 1-0 victories over No. 21 Wake Forest and No. 24 Utah on the way to capturing their eighth Santa Clara adidas Classic title. SCU received outstanding performances from many new faces in the starting lineup, getting game-winning goals from freshman Katherine Reynolds on Friday night and senior transfer Hillary Schwarzbach Sunday afternoon.
In addition to the scoring of Reynolds and Schwarzbach, freshman Kiki Bosio was also recognized for her play, assisting on Reynolds' goal Friday and putting five of her six shots on frame Sunday. For her play, Bosio was named the Santa Clara adidas Classic Most Valuable Player and earned a spot on Soccer America's National Team of the Week.
Junior transfer Chioma Igwe starred in the midfield for the Broncos, adjusting quickly and playing staunch defense as well as keeping the Broncos in possession for most of the matches. Igwe was named to the All-Tournament team for her role in the midfield, as well as the Soccer Buzz Elite National Team of the Week.
Reynolds and sophomore goalkeeper Meagan McCray were also honored as part of the All-Tournament team, with McCray making six saves and posting a pair of shutouts over the weekend.
"There's nothing a coach wants more than having a number of quality players on their team," Smith commented about the outstanding play of the newcomers last weekend. "That depth and competition created by it creates a tremendous energy in your training that you otherwise would not have. It is nice to see that early in the season, new players, whether freshmen like Kiki or Katherine, or transfers like Chioma and Hillary, come in and have such a great impact in games against quality opponents."
Following this weekend's action, the top-ranked Broncos will continue their road swing with the first of two trips to the Los Angeles area this season. SCU will visit the campus of UCLA for matches against No. 15 Connecticut on Friday, Sept. 8 and No. 4 Texas A&M on Sunday, Sept. 10. Sunday's match with the Aggies is slated to be televised on ESPNU.