Nov. 9, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - One of the key factors for success in the NCAA Tournament is how well a team handles adversity.
After suffering its first loss in nearly a month, the 11th-ranked Santa Clara University men's soccer team gets an opportunity to do just that with a pair of weekend road matches at Gonzaga and Portland.
The Broncos, which had their five-match unbeaten streak snapped by Sunday's 2-1 loss at home to Loyola Marymount, can clinch the West Coast Conference regular-season championship with a win either Thursday at Gonzaga or Saturday at Portland. Thursday's match is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff, while Saturday's contest will begin at 7 p.m.
Be sure to check out ESPNews at 1 p.m. (Pacific) on Monday or join the team at The Bronco for NCAA Tournament pairings.
Santa Clara is 12-4-2 on the season and a league-leading 6-2-2 (20 pts) in the WCC. The Broncos have been ranked among the nation's top-20 throughout the season and rose to as high as fourth in the various polls. Second-place LMU trails Santa Clara by four points in the league standings.
Senior keeper Kevin Sweeney, the WCC's Player of the Month for October, ranks 14th nationally with an 0.635 goals against average. The San Jose, Calif. native has an 8-2-2 record between the pipes and his seven shutouts is the second-most in the league this season.
As a team, Santa Clara ranks 13th nationally in shutout percentage and 20th in win-loss percentage.
Senior forward Kelechi Igwe is second in the WCC with seven assists this season, which equals the total from his first three seasons at SCU. The Belmont, Calif. native is one of eight seniors on the Bronco squad who were recognized as part of last weekend's senior day activities.
For the first time since early in the season, the Broncos are nearly completely healthy. Santa Clara welcomed the return of senior Eric Irvine two weeks ago and last week starters Erik Ustruck and Jamil Roberts returned to action. Each of the trio should be near full fitness level this week and for postseason.
Gonzaga enters Thursday's match with a 6-8-4 overall record and a 4-4-2 mark in league play. On Oct. 16 at Buck Shaw Stadium, the Broncos scored in the 10th minute then held on for a 1-0 victory. Santa Clara ownsa 9-4-1 series lead over the Bulldogs, but four of the last five meetings between the two teams has been decided by one goal.
Sophomore forward George Josten is the WCC Player of the Week after scoring three of the Bulldogs' seven goals for the week and helping his team win twice in WCC play. His first two goals came at the University of San Diego to tie the match and help Gonzaga rally from 2-0 deficit with 22:00 to play as Bulldogs scored three goals in a 17-minute span for a 3-2 win.
Santa Clara will find out its postseason fate on Monday at 1 p.m. (Pacific) when the NCAA announces the field for the 47th annual Division I Men's Soccer Championship live on ESPNews. The team, coaches, staff and public will gather on campus at The Bronco in the Benson Memorial Center to watch the pairings.