Nov. 23, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - If it seems like the fifth-ranked Santa Clara women's soccer team has been in this situation before, it's because they have. Facing a top-seed on the road, in this case Penn State in the NCAA Quarterfinals at 1 p.m. PT on Friday, is old hat for the Broncos. After all, they have advanced to the next round of the NCAA Tournament two of the last three times they've had to play another top team in hostile territory.
Friday's match will also pit two of the nation's best against each other with a berth in the College Cup in College Station, Tex. on the line. For Santa Clara (17-4-2), it is their 11th-straight trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals and they will be seeking the program's 11th trip to the College Cup. The Broncos understand what it will take to get past Penn State (22-0-1) and punch their ticket to Texas.
"You can't make mistakes, your execution has to be flawless and anytime you have a No. 1 seed and a No. 2 seed its likely going to be a tight game," Head coach Jerry Smith noted on what it takes for a team to win in the later rounds of the tournament. "At this time of the year we've had to deal with [weather conditions] in our away quarterfinals matches over the years. We're going to have to hit on all cylinders in this particular match and not make any mistakes."
Santa Clara reached the quarterfinal round following a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Boston College last Saturday. In three tournament games, the Broncos have scored 11 goals, with seven players accounting for those scores, including three by Tina Estrada and two apiece from Jordan Angeli and Meagan Snell.
The offensive output has been matched by the back line as goalkeeper Julie Ryder and her crew have allowed only one goal in the postseason and have shutdown virtually all attack attempts, as the lone goal scored against them was on a set piece. Defenders Micaela Esquivel and Marian Dalmy have also gotten involved offensively, with Dalmy posting a goal and an assist and Esquivel assisting on the game-winner against BC. With the team producing from all sides of the ball, the Broncos are in the right position heading into Friday.
The Nittany Lions are led by Tiffany Weimer, who has scored a whopping 31 goals in 2005. Weimer's hat trick in the second half last weekend led Penn State to a 4-1 third-round victory over Texas A&M. Between the posts, keeper Erin McLeod brings a 0.86 goals-against average into Friday's match.
After being the clear-cut favorite in the first three matches, Santa Clara finds themselves placd back in the role of underdogs by most outsiders. With a decorated postseason history, the Broncos have proved time and again that they are one of the nation's elite in defeating teams like North Carolina and Portland on the road in the NCAA Tournament.
"I think in the NCAA Tournament, when we've been the underdog we've always played well," Smith said. "I expect our team will play well in this game, and we've won in the NCAA Tournament in some tough venues, at Notre Dame, at UConn, at Portland, and at North Carolina, so that helps us knowing that we have been in these kind of situations in the past and done well. That will motivate our players just as it did last year at North Carolina."
Santa Clara will look to add another College Cup appearance to their annals Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. Pacific as they take on Penn State in NCAA Quarterfinal action. Fans can follow the action live on www.santaclarabroncos.com as live stats will be updated throughout the match.