No. 9 Broncos Prepare For Big Weekend

No. 9 Broncos Prepare For Big Weekend

Oct. 12, 2005

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - During the preseason, the Santa Clara University men's soccer team set a number of goals designed to allow them the best chance at a national title.

Peaking halfway through the season wasn't one of them.

Having earned eight wins out of 11 of the team's 20 regular-season games to date, the Broncos are making progress towards their objectives and are ready to tackle the second half of the season. Friday night the Broncos host traditional soccer rival Portland in a 7 p.m. kickoff in Buck Shaw Stadium. SCU will then play Gonzaga Sunday at 3 p.m. to complete the weekend's competition.

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Ninth-ranked Santa Clara enters Friday's match with an 8-3 mark and a 2-1 record against West Coast Conference opponents after splitting a pair of road matches last weekend in Southern California. The Broncos blanked San Diego 2-0 on Friday before dropping a 3-1 decision that was much closer than the score indicates at Loyola Marymount on Sunday.

"We've been playing pretty well, but we are only halfway through the season," said SCU's head coach Cameron Rast. "Our goal wasn't to peak after the first 10 games. Our goal is to peak when it means the most and that is at the end of the year when championships are on the line. We stubbed our toe a bit on Sunday at Loyola Marymount and didn't take advantage of our chances. But, other than that match, I feel pretty good about how our guys are playing right now."

Junior forward Keith DeVey (Kula, Hawai'i) continues to lead the Broncos in points (14) and goals scored (6) and ranks second in the WCC in both categories. Senior Kelechi Igwe (Belmont, Calif.) and sophomore Peter Lowry (Fair Oaks, Calif.) are tied for second with three goals and eight point apiece.

The Broncos enter Friday's match with the WCC's most prolific offense, scoring 22 goals in 11 games and amassing 62 total points during the first half of the season. Santa Clara is also second in the league in attendance with an average of 1,293 fans attending its first three home matches. That support certainly tends to help the Broncos maintain a home field advantage.

"Our crowd is extremely important to us," said Rast. "We've had awesome student support from the Ruff Riders and the local soccer community has been very supportive. Hopefully we'll continue to see good crowds come out to Buck Shaw and we will do everything we can to win matches and make them want to return."

The injury bug has hit the Broncos during the last two weeks. Sophomore defender Jamil Roberts is out indefinitely with an elbow injury, while Eric Ustruck is expected to miss the next few matches as well. Fortunately, for the Broncos, a number of players have stepped into various roles during the season and are in a position to fill in the gaps left by the two injured starters.

"We've had the good fortune to have played a number of guys at a couple of different positions," said Rast. "And, even though we knew we were young, we played some guys who will need to step-up for us now that we are missing two key players in Erik and Jamil. We might have to tweak things a bit, but I'm confident in the guys who will fill in the necessary roles for us."

Portland is an uncharacteristic 3-5-1 on the season and 1-2-0 in WCC matches and has not won consecutive matches this season. The Pilots opened the year with a solid 1-1 tie against then eighth-ranked Creighton and lost a narrow 1-0 decision to then 13th-ranked UC Santa Barbara. Portland dropped two of its first three league matches, all at home, against San Diego, Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary's.

The Pilots are led by the WCC's shots leader in Alex Elliot. The freshman forward from Vancouver, B.C. has taken 33 shots in nine outings for a 3.67 per match average. He has scored three goals to tie for sixth in the league. Defensively, keeper Luis Robles, a redshirt junior from Sierra Vista, Ariz., is third in the league with an average of 4.11 saves per game and has three shutouts this season.

On Sunday afternoon, the Broncos will play the second game of their third doubleheader of the season with the fifth-ranked SCU women's team when it hosts Gonzaga in a 3 p.m. match at Buck Shaw Stadium. The Santa Clara women will play rival San Francisco at noon.

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