SANTA CLARA, Calif. - After a weekend of finally playing with all of its players, Santa Clara women's soccer will host CSU Northridge on Fri., Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and Washington State on Sun., Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. Last weekend the Broncos took on No. 15 San Diego State and battled to a 1-1 tie and took down UNC Greensboro 4-2 in the Santa Clara Classic. Stanford won the overall team title but Julie Johnston, Sofia Huerta and Olivia Klei were named to the All-Classic Team.
Last weekend marked the first time Santa Clara has had all of its eligible players available. In her first games back with Santa Clara since returning from the U-20 World Cup championship in Japan, Johnston showed why she is such an integral piece of the puzzle for the Broncos immediately. She had an assist on a goal by Huerta vs. UNC Greensboro and helped create many more dangerous chances throughout the weekend.
"It was certainly great to have Julie [Johnston] join the rest of the roster," said Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith, looking to make his 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance this season. "Aside from having a few injuries, which we're always going to have, it was nice to have all of our eligible players here. We were a much more dangerous attacking team this week. We scored four goals in a game for the first time this season and created a number of great chances in our tie. What that does is it puts the other team on its heals a little bit and that means they won't be coming at you as strong. Going forward we can look forward to more goal scoring chances, and hopefully goals, and teams putting less pressure on our goalkeeper because they can't commit so many players forward."
Being away from the team for such a long journey can sometimes cause a player to struggle upon returning. Johnston, however, is such a great leader that Smith didn't see that effect with her.
"I thought she responded tremendously well," said Smith. "It's hard for everyone to grasp what she's been through. To be mostly playing and practicing with another team since last January and go through the emotions of the World Cup can be very draining. We've had players come back from past U-20 World Cups with mixed reviews but Julie handled it very well and was one of our best players on the field."
With it being Welcome Weekend and fall quarter classes starting on Monday, students are back on campus. On Sunday fans came up with the cheer "Viva Sofia!" to show support for Huerta and her team. A vocal student body, including the Ruff Riders, creates a bigger home field advantage for Santa Clara and that is something Smith and the team look forward to.
"Having students back on campus is tremendous," added Smith. "This is college athletics and that's about having fans come to the game and support their fellow students. We love that the community comes out and supports our team but it's really our student fans who are very emotionally invested in what's going on. To finally have our students back was certainly nice to feel, hear and see. We look forward to having other opportunities to entertain all our fans and have the students come out to show some school spirit and cheer for our players."
The Broncos enter the weekend with a 4-2-3 record and a 3-0-1 mark at home. Santa Clara won 1-0 at No. 15 Cal while battling to a 1-1 tie vs. No. 23 Georgetown. They lost at No. 1 Stanford to open the season. The Broncos have outshot opponents 140-112 and have scored 14 goals.
Despite only playing four games, Huerta is tied with Klei for the team-lead in goals with three each. Lauren Matheson, Sarah Jackson and Dani Weatherholt have each found the back of the net twice while Meleana Shim and Brooke Rice have one goal apiece. Johnston leads the team with two assists while Matheson, Jackson and Kat McAuliffe are tied for second with one assist each. Andi Tostanoski has picked up 36 saves and two shutouts while starting every game.
Northridge enters the weekend with a 3-1-3 record and has played only one game that was decided by more than one goal, a 3-0 win at San Diego in the second game of the season. The only other game where either team scored more than one goal was a 2-1 loss vs. No. 24 Baylor. The Matadors have been outshot by their opponents 126-101 but have outscored opponents 8-4.
Stephanie Galarze leads the team with two goals and five others have one goal each. Melizza Fernandez leads the team with five points on one goal and three assists while Stephanie Norton has a team-high four assists. Cynthia Jacobo has played every minute in net and has allowed just a 0.52 GAA. Jacobo has 49 saves, good for a .925 saver percentage, and has picked up four shutouts.
Washington State is 6-1-0 in 2012 with the only loss coming at the USC Football Classic to No. 4 Duke, last year's NCAA runner-up, by a final of 4-0. Not only have the Cougars outscored opponents 21-8, they have allowed just 61 shots in seven games while attempting 101. They have also had 32 corner kicks to opponents' 15.
Micaela Castain leads the team with eight goals, four more than the next closest, and has 16 points, also best on the team. Brandi Vega has score four goals, Jocelyn Jeffers has three goals and Kourtney Guetlein has scored twice. Three other Washington State players have added one goal each. Vega, Guetlein and Mariah Cameron are tied for the team lead with two assists. Clair Gurveen has made all seven starts while picking up eight saves and a 1.00 GAA. She has registered one shutout and been a part of two. Ariana Byrd has also seen time in goal while picking up five saves.