August 22, 2012

Bronco Women's Soccer Travels to Cal, Hosts UC Riverside in Home-Opener

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Looking to bounce back after falling at No. 1 Stanford to open the season, the No. 25 Santa Clara women's soccer team will travel to Cal on Thu., Aug. 23 at 4 p.m. and host UC Riverside on Sun., Aug. 26 at 1 p.m.

The Golden Bears are 2-0 to start the season with a 3-0 win at Pacific and a 5-2 victory vs. San Jose State. Grace Leer has scored three goals to lead the team while Betsy Hassett has scored twice. Three other players have scored one goal each to give Cal a balanced attack.

Cal has excelled by outshooting its opponents a whopping 45-14. Of those 45 shots, an impressive 21 have been on goal. They have also received 18 corner kicks while allowing just four.

The Broncos took down Cal during the 2011 regular season by a score of 3-0 on two goals from Julie Johnston and one from Katie Speidel. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, however, the teams tied 1-1 after two overtime periods and Cal advanced on penalty kicks. Santa Clara is looking forward to the chance to rebound against a top program.

"In Cal you have a very good team and when you play other Bay Area teams there aren't any secrets because we see each other so much," said Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith, in his 26th year leading the Broncos. "That usually means a good battle and we've had a wonderful rivalry with them that has gone back and forth.  We know that they are capable of beating us as they knocked us out of the NCAA Tournament last year. Having said that, what is more important for our team is finding out who we are. To really prove yourself coming off a game like the Stanford game, you want a top-quality opponent and that is what we have a chance to do. Rebounding against a top-team is what we are most looking forward to."

UC Riverside also enters the week with a 2-0 record. The Highlanders beat Bakersfield at home and Southern Utah on the road in overtime. Both games were decided by scores of 2-1. Four different players have scored for Riverside and three others have added assists. Celina Valencia leads the team with seven shots with four others tied for second with three. Goalkeeper Jessica White has recorded nine saves with a save percentage of .818 while playing all 202 minutes.

Despite students not being back in school in time for the Broncos home-opener vs. UC Riverside on Sunday, the crowd on hand should be excited to welcome back the team that has made 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and 10 Final Fours. Not only will the crowd be beneficial to Santa Clara but the familiarity with Buck Shaw's field and how it plays will give the Broncos another edge.

"There are two things when you are playing at home and the first one is pretty obvious: you're not away," added Smith. "In the second half vs. Stanford, when they tied the score, their crowd got into the game and it became hard to play against, almost like an extra player or two. We hope to create some fun and excitement for our fans and get them cheering for us. One of the unique things about our sport is that the fields are all different with different sizes and types of grass so there is a comfort in knowing exactly how to play on our field."