Nov. 2, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The casual observer might look at the West Coast Conference men's soccer standings and think fifth-ranked Santa Clara is running away with the championship.
However, even though the Broncos are two games clear at the top of the table with four regular-season matches left, both of their weekend opponents remain alive in the league title chase.
The Broncos enter Friday's 7 p.m. match at Buck Shaw Stadium against the University of San Diego with a 12-3-1 overall record and a 6-1-1 mark in WCC matches. The Toreros are 8-4-3 overall and 4-3-1 in league competition. SCU's Sunday afternoon opponent, Loyola Marymount, is tied with San Diego for second-place in the conference standings and plays at San Francisco Friday night.
Tickets to both of Santa Clara's weekend matches are available by calling 408/554-4660 during business hours or online 24-hour-per-day by clicking here. Both matches will also feature live online Gametracker and audio coverage on SantaClaraBroncos.com.
Santa Clara's two matches against its Southern California rivals this weekend should help clear-up the WCC title race. Two wins by Santa Clara would clinch the program's third title in the last five years and its ninth since 1989. A win Friday over San Diego, combined with a Loyola Marymount loss at San Francisco would ensure at least a share of the title going into Sunday's match against the Lions.
"Both of the teams we play this weekend are trying to make a hard push for the league title and a spot in the playoffs," said fourth-year SCU head coach Cameron Rast, who has a 29-3-2 record in matches at Buck Shaw Stadium. "Heading into this weekend, there are really four WCC teams (SCU, USD, LMU, San Francisco) that have a chance for postseason and we all play each other. So, there is really a strong sense of purpose for each team and all four of the matches will feature a playoff atmosphere."
The Broncos are riding a five-match unbeaten streak and have won eight of their last 10 appearances. SCU's defensive has not allowed a goal in five consecutive matches, dating back to LMU's 3-1 win over the Broncos on Oct. 9 in Los Angeles.
The WCC leaders in a number of statistical categories, Santa Clara ranks sixth nationally in shutout percentage, seventh in winning percentage and 12th in save percentage. Senior goalkeeper Kevin Sweeney enters the weekend ranked sixth nationally in goals against average, is tied for the WCC lead with seven shutouts and is the WCC Player of the Month.
The last time Santa Clara and San Diego met, a 2-0 Bronco victory on Oct. 7 at Torero Stadium, Igwe and fellow senior Hector Guzman each scored, while Sweeney recorded six saves. The win was Santa Clara's first at USD since 1996.
SCU holds a decisive 19-9-1 series edge over San Diego since the first meeting between the two teams in 1981. The Broncos have won three-straight over USD at home, dating back to a 1-0 overtime defeat that ended SCU's 11-game win streak to open the season.
"It is important that our team focuses on USD and not look ahead," said Rast. "San Diego is a team that has been successful this season and certainly has the desire and incentive to win the match. It is important that we focus on playing well at home and learning how to deal with competing in a playoff-type of atmosphere."
Sunday's 3 p.m. match against Loyola Marymount will serve as the final regular-season home appearance for eight Bronco seniors: Guzman, Igwe, Eric Irvine, Cardiff Schmitz, Jeff Scott, Sweeney, Alex Tablin-Wolf and Ryan Wolfe.