SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Teaching, discovery and joining together as a unit are the focal points of Santa Clara University's preseason training camp, which opened this week on SCU's Mission Campus.
The Broncos – ranked No. 10 nationally in the final 2009 NSCAA Top 25 poll – are practicing twice daily in preparation for its 2010 season-opening weekend, when they host San Diego State Friday, August 20 and San Jose State Sunday, August 22.
"We won't start looking to our opening weekend, and those opponents in particular, until we get out of our double-days, August 16," said SCU head coach Jerry Smith, who has led the Broncos to the NCAA College Cup Final Four 10 times. "Mostly what we use preseason for is teaching."
Choosing to recruit talented student-athletes, rather than aiming to bring in players by position, Smith and his coaching staff are using the camp to figure out where to best place the members of its incoming class.
The new players add to a roster that includes six All-West Coast Conference honorees from last year's team, which won 14 games and advanced into the NCAA tournament's third round. Midfielder Allie Vernon – the 2009 WCC 'Freshman of the Year' - has been named a co-captain along with junior goalkeeper Bianca Henninger and seniors Kendra Perry and Lindsey Johnson.
Depth at a number of positions should be beneficial during this month's training schedule. The team is practicing twice per day and is going through an early-morning conditioning program.
"Our expectation is to finish in the top 10," said Smith, who won a National Championship at Santa Clara in 2001. "To do that, health is going to be a big factor. If we stay healthy we will have a good shot at it. Another big key for us this year will be leadership."
The Broncos will be hard-pressed to fill the leadership void left by former SCU All-American Jordan Angeli, who has gone on to make an immediate impact at the professional level with the Boston Breakers of the WPS.
But the lineup should be filled with accomplished players – none more topical of late than Henninger, who was awarded the prestigious 'Adidas Golden Glove' at the conclusion of the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup in Germany last month.
"Will our leaders be able to lead us in the toughest games on our schedule, in crunch time? That remains to be seen," said Smith. "That's one of the big question marks, in terms of our team being able to reach its full potential. So we are excited to see how that works."
Santa Clara's 2010 schedule takes the team to South Bend, Indiana for an early-season date with perennial national power Notre Dame and the University of Mississippi. SCU will host league rival and No. 5 Portland on ESPNU in late October, part of a four-game homestand, which also includes a match against No. 20 BYU.
For more information or to buy tickets please call the SCU Ticket Office at 408-554-4660.