SANTA CLARA, Calif. – After a week off, No. 18 Santa Clara women's soccer opens West Coast Conference play with two games at Buck Shaw this week. The Broncos take on San Diego on Thurs., Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. and No. 22 BYU on Sat. Oct. 12 at 1 p.m. Santa Clara finished non-conference play with a record of 6-3-1 after taking down Kansas 3-2 and Cal Poly 4-0. The Broncos enter conference play No. 16 in the RPI.
"You'd like to get off to a good start in conference," said Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith. "There are several things we want to accomplish in the second part of our regular season. We'd like to make a run at the conference championship and to do that you can't have too many slip ups, especially at home. We've got some tough conference games so you want to make sure you don't put yourself in a hole to start. We have high expectations for a deep NCAA Tournament run so we want to make sure everything is starting to come together for us. Our main goal is to play well in the San Diego match and for the most part, we have been playing well so we will try to ride that momentum."
With the second phase of the regular season starting, the Broncos have had time to see what they do well as a team.
"We would like to continue to improve on being dangerous on attacking dead balls," said Smith. "We made some progress towards the end of our non-conference schedule but we would like to keep improving and prove to ourselves we can score on attacking dead balls. We also feel like we have enough fire power to score two or three goals a game so we want to make sure we can continue to do that well."
Santa Clara has also seen where it needs to improve if it wants to make a run at the College Cup.
"One of the things we would like to reduce is the number of giveaways," said Smith. "We don't want to give the ball away on silly fouls or what should be a routine possession turning into a counterattack for the opponent. That will be a point of emphasis for us going forward."
Julie Johnston leads Santa Clara with six goals and 14 points while adding two assists. Morgan Marlborough is second on the team in goals with five and points with 12 while chipping in two assists. Sofia Huerta has found the back of the net four times while Jordan Jesolva has scored twice. Julie Vass leads the team with three assists while five other Broncos have registered at least one point.
Santa Clara is 14-7-0 all-time vs. San Diego. Last year the Broncos took down the Toreros 3-2 at Buck Shaw. Santa Clara jumped out to a 2-0 lead but San Diego tied the game 2-2 in the 84th minute before a goal by Meleana Shim in the 88th minute put the broncos ahead for good.
"San Diego is a tough defensive team that defends well and looks to counterattack," said Smith. "We have to make sure we don't allow counterattack moments against our team by silly giveaways."
San Diego enters the week with a record of 7-4-0 and a 2-2-0 mark on the road. The Toreros topped Long Beach State 1-0 at home in their only game of last week. San Diego has also picked up wins over Kansas and Missouri while falling to San Diego State and Texas A&M.
San Diego has outscored opponents 20-18 but has been outshot 165-114 and 76-59 in shots on goal.
Michaela Dooley leads the team with six goals and 13 points while adding one assist. Emily Dillon is second in goals with five and has two assists for 12 points. Taylor Housley and Jacquelin Altschuld have scored two goals each while five other Toreros have scored one goal apiece. Kelly McCloskey and Altschuld are tied for the team lead with three assists each while 10 other players have at least one assist. Michelle Craft has played every minute in net and has allowed 18 goals for a 1.62 GAA. Craft has made 57 saves for a .760 save percentage and has four shutouts.
The Broncos are 6-0-2 all-time vs. the Cougars. Last season Santa Clara tied BYU 0-0 in Provo. The Broncos kept the high-powered No. 6 Cougar attack scoreless and then-freshman Andi Tostanoski had a career-high 11 saves.
"The biggest challenge in the BYU game is that they have a very athletic and deep team," said Smith. "To play them in the second of two games on the weekend will be a real challenge for the depth of our team. We're looking for the starters and the reserves to make an impact in the game. They're so athletic and too deep and we'll have some tired legs coming off the Thursday match."
BYU is 6-3-1 in 2013 and 2-1-1 on the road. The Cougars beat No. 20 Baylor 2-1 last week. The team has also taken down top-25 opponent No. 25 LSU 4-2 on the road on Sept. 2. No. 19 Denver beat the Cougars 1-0 in Provo on Sept. 26.
BYU has outscored opponents 16-9 while outshooting teams 146-86 and 77-40 in shots on goal. The Cougars have scored five goals in the first half, the same number as opponents, but are outscoring teams 11-4 in the second half.
Ashley Hatch leads BYU with seven points. She is tied for the team lead with three goals and has added one assist. Rachel Manning also has three goals while three Cougars are tied with two goals scored each. Cloee Colohan and Sarah Chambers are tied with a team-high two assists. Colohan has scored two goals while Chambers has yet to find the back of the net. Erica Owens has played every minute in goal and has a 0.88 GAA while collecting 30 saves for a .769 save percentage. Owens has three shutouts on the season.