Aug. 26, 2002
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Since arriving on the Santa Clara campus in the late 80's Cameron Rast has had a lasting impact on the men's soccer program. He led the Broncos to an undefeated National Championship season in 1989 before heading off to captain the U.S. Olympic squad during the 1992 games in Barcelona, Spain. He rejoined the Bronco program as a coach in 1993 and was promoted to the position of Associate Head Coach just prior to last season and is now in his first year as head coach.
Rast's squad began practicing in the middle of August and reported with 37 players vying for only 26 spots. Of the 37 players trying to make the team, only 14 return from the 2001 squad that qualified for the NCAA Tournament after capturing the school's eighth West Coast Conference title since the league began in 1981. The eight WCC championships is tied for the most by one school in the league.
Despite losing nearly half of the team that defeated California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Rast may have history on his side in trying to return to the playoffs and repeat as conference champs. The last three times the Broncos captured the league title after not winning it the year before, they repeated the very next year as champions. They won back-to-back titles in 1989 and '90, 1993 and '94, and 1996 and '97. Also, a good sign for the first-year coach is the fact that the Broncos have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 10 of the last 13 seasons.
First Year Expectations
Rast takes over his alma matter and becomes only the sixth head coach in the program's 33-year history. He will fill the shoes of his mentor and former coach, Mitch Murray, who retired from Santa Clara with 143 wins and the distinction of being the school's all-time winningest men's soccer coach. While the shadow of Murray and the other successful coaches that preceded him looms largely over the program, Rast has many expectations of himself, his staff and his players to continue the winning tradition of Santa Clara soccer.
"I think this program has really established itself as one of the elite programs in the country," said Rast. "However, the success of this team over the years has come in pockets. I would like to have this program consistently be among the elite in the nation, meaning that we don't have two great years followed up by two good years. I would like us to strive for and attain great years constantly.
"In terms of expectations of myself and my staff," he continued, "we are looking to provide the that will allow our players to develop the ability to solve problems on the field. We want them to be exciting on the field and to really showcase themselves so that they can enjoy the sport and play at the highest competitive level. Above all, this must fit within the team concept because that is the only way we can succeed."
A key part of any successful program is the structure and setting of goals that is established early in the season. The 2002 Broncos are not a very experienced team in terms of upperclassmen. But, that does not prevent them from having lofty goals.
"The goal structure for the staff and the way that we have always presented it to our players is to compete for a national championship," said Rast. "The WCC title is a stepping stone for what we want to accomplish and that is to play for a national title. Our conference is very competitive and by no means do we take that lightly. We had five of seven teams from the conference make the NCAA Tournament last year, more than any other conference in the country. Because of that we can't afford to take the competition lightly, but at the same time our goals don't solely reside in the conference,. They aspire to a much bigger and loftier prize."
As a former player in the Bronco program, Rast and his staff, which is comprised of two former players as well, know the importance of allowing the players to provide input in terms of setting goals for each season.
"A big part of the success of our program resides in what the team wants," said the former Bronco captain. "We relay to them what we would like our goals to be, but the team will also get together and have a goal setting session where it puts together a plan. Each team tends to be a little different because the personalities are never going to be the same year in and year out."
"Each year the leadership changes," he added, "and the ability to flow with that diverstiy and foster development and growth will ultimately lead to success with the team. Because of that we tend to allow the players to go after the goals they want to attain."
Style of Play
Over the years Santa Clara Soccer has been known for its defense. Even back in the days when Rast and assistant coaches Eric Yamamoto and Guy Bazan played for the Broncos, defense was their bread and butter. During the 1989 title run, Santa Clara posted a program best 0.44 goals-against average. However, the other part that is overlooked in that season is the record 78 goals that the Broncos scored, led by Paul Bravo's 16. Therein lies the mix that Rast is looking for under his direction.
I don't claim to have this brand new style of play or philosophy that will revolutionize the game of soccer. But, I really do believe that while defense does win championships, you can't win games without scoring goals.
Head Coach Cameron Rast
"For me," he added, "I don't mind winning the game by a 10-9 score, as long as we win. Any style with which we can win games, I will go with it. If the attractiveness has to suffer a bit for us to win games, then so be it. On the other end of the spectrum though, I have also seen very attractive 0-0 games. ln the end, however, I think we will be very offensive minded and an attacking team. If the players buy into our philosophy, we will be a fun and exciting team to watch."
From the Coach's Point of View
Every year a team depends on its strengths to either cover up for its weaknesses, or propel itself to the next level. The 2002 Broncos will be a team that will rely on its strengths to win games in an effort to propel the young team to a championship level at a faster pace than expected.
"I think our concentration and commitment to the team framework will be two keys for us this year," said Rast. "We have very talented players returning in Scott McLain, Jamil Walker, Ryan Cochrane and Steve Cronin, just to name a few, who will be the leaders on this year's team. We will be dependent on their leadership on and off the field to come up with the big plays that will change games for us in a positive manner.
McLain returns for his senior season as the team captain and will be the primary leader on the field for the Broncos. The three-year performer has started in 36 of his 57 career appearances, including 20 of the team's 21 games last season. He has scored one goal in each of his first three seasons, and added one assist as a junior, bringing his career point total to seven. His strengths, however, lie in his competitiveness and tenacity. He is a relentless pursuer of the ball and few players will outwork him on the field.
Walker returns for his senior season after finishing his two previous campaigns as the team's second-leading scorer. As a junior in 2001, he earned honorable mention All-WCC honors after scoring eight points on three goals and two assists. He was named the Offensive MVP at the FIU/Umbro Classic and followed that up later with a WCC Player of the Week award. In his career, Walker has posted seven goals, four of which have been game-winners, and five assists, totaling 19 points since he transferred to the Mission Campus from the Air Force Academy prior to the 2000 season.
McLain and Walker will join Burke Ewers as the only seniors on the 2002 squad. Ewers saw limited action as a redshirt junior in 2001, appearing in only eight games, but he did pick up the assist in the Broncos' WCC title clinching 1-0 victory over Loyola Marymount last November. His skill and leadership will be a plus for the Broncos in '02.
Behind the trio of seniors, two juniors and two sophomores will be depended on to stabilize the Broncos. Junior midfielders Kellen Gilmore and Matt Upton will provide steady play in the middle, while blue-chip sophomores Ryan Cochrane and Steve Cronin will spearhead the usually steady Bronco defense.
Gilmore enters his third season in a Bronco uniform after starting in all 21 games last season. As a sophomore he led the Bronco offense with four assists, moving his career total to six. He was responsible for setting up the game-winning overtime goals against both Oregon State and San Jose State. His footwork and competitiveness give Gilmore an edge over many of the players he will challenge in 2002.
Cochrane enters his sophomore campaign after earning second-team All-WCC honors and Freshman All-America honors from Soccer America. His fiery competitiveness and defensive skill will surely anchor the Broncos defense in 2002. Aside from starting all 21 games for the Broncos last season, he continues to gain valuable experience on the international scene, playing for the U.S. Under-20 National Team.
Like always, the Broncos will face a formidable schedule during the 2003 season, matching up with eight teams that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2001. Santa Clara's non-conference road schedule includes such teams as Stanford, Washington, Brown and Harvard, while taking on Cal State Fullerton and Bay Area rivals California and San Jose State in the friendly confines of Buck Shaw Stadium.
The West Coast Conference title defense will begin on the road at the University of Portland on October 13 and continue just one week later at Gonzaga. After their final WCC road game at San Diego on October 25, the Broncos will return home for their final three league contests. The Broncos will take on Saint Mary's November 2 and the University of San Francisco on November 12. They will conclude the 2002 regular season with a match against Loyola Marymount.