SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Riding a four-game winning streak, No. 22 Santa Clara women's soccer takes on two ranked Pac-12 foes this week at Buck Shaw. The Broncos host No. 12 Cal on Thurs., Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. and No. 2 Stanford at 7 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 22. Santa Clara's last win over a top-5 team was in 2011 when the Broncos topped No. 3 Pepperdine at home. The Stanford game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and called by Melissa Lee and Julie Foudy.
"This week will be a great challenge for us," said Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith. "You have two top-20, undefeated teams that are also Bay Area rivals. There are no secrets between these teams. When you choose to have lofty goals, these are the games you really get excited about. The team is excited about the games and we have a lot of respect for what those programs have done. This week is about handing your emotions and not getting too excited."
"We need to focus on what we need to do to be successful and not worry so much about what our opponent is going to do," said Smith. "When you over-emphasize what your opponent will do, you don't spend enough time on what you need to do. You still need to execute and communicate effectively. We learned a lot from our opening weekend against two top teams so this week we'll be spending more of our time on our own game plan."
Smith and his coaching staff know that there are specific areas the team needs to excel at in order to come out with positive results against two tough opponents.
"The most important thing for us to be successful this weekend is to take care of the ball," said Smith. "The best example of that was the Maryland game. They came in scoring over four goals a game but we didn't think too much about how we were going to defend a team scoring that much. We talked about keeping the ball better. If we have the ball, we're not worried about them scoring."
In games of evenly match opponents, the details are often the difference between a win and a loss.
"In tight games, often times the difference is a dead ball goal," said Smith. "I've been challenging our team week after week to scored more dead ball goals and last week all three goals in the second half were off of dead balls. Those are wonderful scoring opportunities that we haven't been taking advantage of."
The Broncos are 15-18-6 all-time vs. Cal. Last year Santa Clara took down the Bears 1-0 on the road. The last meeting at Buck Shaw was the NCAA Tournament in 2011. The two teams tied and Cal advanced on penalty kicks.
Cal had last week off and took down Harvard 2-1 and UC Davis 4-0 at home the previous week.
Santa Clara is 18-18-7 all-time against Stanford with the last meeting coming in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2012. The Cardinal won 2-1 in a tightly contested match. The last meeting at Buck Shaw was 2011 when Stanford won 2-0. Santa Clara's last win vs. Stanford was a 2-0 victory in 2006.
Stanford topped Iowa State 3-1 on Sept. 15. Each of the Cardinal's last two opponents have visited the Mission campus before heading to Palo Alto. Stanford took down Maryland 3-0 on Sept. 8.
Julie Johnston and Marlborough each have four goals and two assists for a team-high 10 points. Sofia Huerta, Jordan Jesolva and Mariana Galvan each have found the back of the net once while Julie Vass has added two assists and Allie Vernon has one assist. Andi Tostanoski has made 26 saves for a .812 save percentage and collected three shutouts.
Cal has outscored its opponents 15-4 and outshot foes 86-51, including 47-21 on goal. The Bears are yet to allow a first half goal, outscoring opponents 4-0 in the first half. The second half has been where Cal is putting games away. The team has won the second half battle 11-4.
The offensive attack is led by Ifeoma Onumonu who has a team-high five goals and 11 points. Samantha Witteman is tied for second on the team in both goals and assists with three of each. Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick has three goals and two assists while Rachel Mercik has two goals and two assists. Kori Lamet is tied for the team-lead with three assists. Emily Kruger has played every minute in net while allowing just a 0.64 GAA. Kruger has picked up 17 saves and a .810 saver percentage while collecting two shutouts.
Stanford has outscored opponents 14-3 while almost doubling-up on shots 120-68. The Cardinal have won the first half 5-2 and the second half 8-1.
Taylor Uhl leads the team with six goals and 12 points. Courtney Verloo is the only other Cardinal with multiple goals. Verloo has scored two goals and added two assists for six points. Natalie Griffen has three assists to lead the team and Chioma Ubogagu is the only other player with multiple assists with two. Six other Cardinal have scored one goal and five others have one assist. Jane Campbell and Emily Oliver have each started three games in goal. Campbell has a 0.30 GAA and made 11 saves for a .917 save percentage. Campbell has the lone solo shutout for Stanford. Oliver has a 0.70 GAA with 11 saves and a .846 save percentage.
Sunday will also mark the return off all students to Santa Clara so the crowd support should be outstanding.
"The fan support is huge," said Smith. "We're so excited to have our students back on campus and play in front of them. That student support is probably the biggest difference maker in college athletics. The main component of the fan base is the students so to finally be playing a game in front of our students is huge. We have to do our part and play entertaining and energetic soccer. If we can get our students excited, it will help our team. I think our students will make it difficult for Cal and Stanford to come in to Buck Shaw and succeed."