Men's Soccer Has Eyes Set on WCC Crown
Nov. 5, 2003
This Week: Broncos Look for League Title against San Diego
Santa Clara will look to claim its ninth West Coast Conference Championship this weekend with its match against No. 17 San Diego. The Broncos currently have a full one game advantage over the Toreros heading into Saturday night's match that is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in Buck Shaw Stadium. The scenario is this, with a win, SCU is the 2003 WCC Champion. A tie would give the Broncos at least a share of the title with only a match at Loyola Marymount on November 15 remaining. Santa Clara needs only to win one of its final two matches to claim the conference crown. In addition to the league title, the Broncos would also claim the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Touranemnt.
No. 4 Santa Clara vs. No. 17 San Diego
The Broncos and Toreros have faced one another 25 previous times with Santa Clara holding a 16-8-1 advantage in the all-time series. Recently, however, the Broncos have only managed one win in their last five matches with USD. The Toreros are one of only two WCC teams to have beaten SCU in Buck Shaw Stadium over the last 10 seasons as the Broncos have posted a 26-3-1 record at home in league play since 1993. San Diego captured victories in "The Shaw" in 1995 and 1999, while Portland took home a victory from SCU in 2001.
Scouting the Toreros
San Diego enters the contest with a 12-3-2 overall record and a 4-1-0 mark in WCC play. They had their 11-match winning streak snapped on Sunday when Portland handed them a 4-2 loss in Oregon. Eric Wunderle leads the team in points with 16, coming on four goals and a team-high eight assists. Sy Reeves leads the team in goals scored with five. Lance Friesz has taken all but 19 minutes in goal for USD, registering a 0.63 goals-against average in the 1,579 minutes he has played in this year. San Diego has outscored its opponents 32-12 in 2003.
Home Sweet Home
Santa Clara improved to 5-0-1 at home in 2003 and extended their home unbeaten streak to 11, with its 1-0 double overtime victory over Portland on October 25. The Broncos' last loss at "The Shaw" came on September 26, 2002 to California. SCU's all-time record at Buck Shawis now 172-67-20, which is a .703 winning percentage. Since the WCC began sponsoring soccer in 1988, Santa Clara has dominated at home, registering a 118-24-11 (.807 win percentage) overall record at Buck Shaw, including a 31-4-3 (.813 win percentage) against WCC teams. Only San Diego (2), San Francisco and Portland have ever won a league match at Buck Shaw Stadium San Francisco (2) and Portland are responsible for the three ties in conference games at SCU.
In the Rankings
The Santa Clara University men's soccer team rose to No. 4 in the Soccer America poll while also climbing to No. 5 in the Soccer Times poll. They rose to No. 6 in the College Soccer News Poll and No. 7 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll. Four WCC teams are currently ranked in the NSCAA/Adidas Far West Region Poll this week. Santa Clara held steady at No. 2, behind only UCLA. San Diego rose to No. 6 despite a loss at Portland. Loyola Marymount jumped to No. 7 following wins at Portland and Gonzaga. Portland's win over San Diego vaulted them into the poll again at No. 10 after dropping out last week following their loss at Santa Clara. The four teams from the WCC are the most from any conference represented in the poll. The Pac-10 has three teams in the poll, while the Big West has two and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation has one.
Ustruck Coming Up Big in WCC
Freshman Erik Ustruck has become a dominant force in the West Coast Conference this season. The midfielder from Manchester, Mo., has score three goals in his inaugural season on the Mission Campus, all of which have been game-winners in league play. His most recent goal came on Sunday at Saint Mary's when his goal at the 26 minute mark gave SCU a 2-1 victory. He also has game-winning goals against San Francisco and Gonzaga. He currently ranks second in conference matches only with his three goals, trailing Alejandro Salazar of Portland whose hat-trick over the weekend against San Diego vaulted his season total in league play to six.
Igwe and Weatherly Among League Leaders
Kelechi Igwe and Will Weatherly's 12 points not only lead the Broncos, but also rank them in a tie for seventh among all WCC players. Igwe has notched four goals and four assists on the year while Weatherly has tallied five goals and two assists.
Bronco Defense Ranked Sixth in Country
Santa Clara's strength historically has rested on the shoulders of the defense. The 2003 season has been no different as the Broncos have allowed only 10 goals in 17 matches. Their 0.56 goals-against average as a team ranks sixth in the country in that category while Steve Cronin ranks 11th in the nation with his 0.62 mark.
Pan Having Breakout Season
SCU defender Jason Pan was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week on October 27 following his game-winning goal performance in double overtime against Portland on October 25 at Buck Shaw Stadium. The junior from Milwaukee, Wis., placed a free kick from just outside the penalty box into the lower right corner of the goal to lift the Broncos to a 1-0 win with only 1:47 remaining in double overtime. The goal was his third of the season and second in league play, as his first conference goal came off a similar play in the first half at San Francisco, a match in which the Broncos ended up winning 2-1. His stellar defensive play also helped the stingy Bronco defense to their second shutout in the last four games and their ninth shutout of the season. While Pan has been on the field, SCU has posted a 0.53 goals-against average. Pan's three goals this season are tied for third on the team while his six points place him in a tie for fourth.
Cronin Ranks First in WCC for GAA, Second in Shutouts
Junior Steve Cronin has registered six shutouts thus far in 2003, ranking him second in the WCC in that category. He currently has 11 in his career, leaving him only six shy of cracking the top-5 for career shutouts at SCU. His goals-against average of 0.62 in all games and 0.71 in league games are both leading the conference. The last Santa Clara player to lead the WCC in goals-against average was current assistant coach Rusty Johnson whose 0.81 mark led the league during his senior season.
Rast in Elite Company
Second year head coach Cameron Rast became only the second head coach in Santa Clara men's soccer history to win 10 games in his first two years at the helm of the program. He joins his predacessor and mentor Mitch Murray as the only two to have accomplished the feat. Rast is now 22-8-4 overall after going 10-6-1 in his first year while Murrary posted records of 20-1-2 and 10-7-1 in his first two campaigns. Former coaches Dave Chaplik (1972-80), Ralph Perez (1981-85) and Steve Sampson (1986-90) all posted 10 wins in two of their first three seasons, but did not posted back-to-back 10-win years to begin their coaching careers on the Mission Campus.
Broncos Honor Seniors
Santa Clara will honor its four outgoing seniors on Senior Day prior to kickoff against San Diego on November 8. The Broncos will recognize the achievments of Audren Cashman, Kirk Fonseca, Kellen Gilmore and Matt Upton with a brief ceremony at 7 p.m.
Last Week: Broncos Defeat Saint Mary's in Moraga
Santa Clara men's soccer scored twice in the first half and held on for a 2-1 victory over Saint Mary's Sunday afternoon at Garaventa Field on the SMC campus in Moraga, Calif. The win moves the Broncos' record to 12-2-3 overall and 4-0-0 in West Coast Conference play while dropping the Gaels to 6-11-0 overall and 1-4-0 in league action. Santa Clara got on the board early as Kelechi Igwe scored his fourth goal of the season off a great crossing pass from Will Weatherly in the 21st minute. Igwe's goal was from only four yards out as Weatherly sent the ball from the left corner after a perfect lead pass from Jason Cunliffe in the middle started the play. All Igwe had to do was slide the ball past Saint Mary's netminder Kellan Wilson for the 1-0 lead, he did so with a blast into the left half of the net. Just five minutes later freshman Erik Ustruck netted his third goal of the year as he blasted a knuckling ball from 40 yards out that fooled Wilson for a 2-0 lead. Ustruck was left all alone on the right of the field and found the back of the goal with the perfectly placed shot into the upper left corner. Saint Mary's drew closer in the 80th minute when David Vedder collected a pass from teammate Michael Johnson and placed it into the left portion of the net, beating SCU keeper Steve Cronin. Vedder took the headed ball and used his chest to knock the ball down to his feet where he one-timed it from six yards out, cutting the Broncos' lead down to 2-1. The Gaels could get no closer however as the Bronco defense held on for the hard fought victory. Cronin ended the match with three saves in the victory for SCU.
Cochrane Tabbed as a M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Award Finalist
Santa Clara University junior defender Ryan Cochrane was tabbed as one of 15 players to watch this season for the M.A.C Hermann Trophy that is presented annually to the top collegiate soccer player in the country. A preseason All-American selection prior to the start of the 2003 season, Cochrane is one of only four defenders on the Hermann Trophy watch list. He is also one of only two players from the West Coast on the list, joining UCLA midfielder Aaron Lopez Jr. A nominating committee consisting of conference representatives from each Division I conference will select a final ballot of the top 15 candidates in early November. The winners of the award are selected through voting by Division I collegiate coaches who are members of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The winners will be announced in conjunction with the NCAA Men's College Cup in Columbus, Ohio, in December.
Head Coach Cameron Rast
Cameron Rast took over the helm of his Alma Matter in 2002, becoming only the sixth head coach in the 34-year history of the program. He guided the Broncos as a player from 1988-91, Rast scored 17 goals and assisted on 20 others. He was the team captain in 1989, leading the Broncos to a 20-0-3 record and the school's only men's NCAA National Championship. A knee injury forced Rast to sit out much of his junior season in 1990, but he returned to form his senior year in 1991. He and the Broncos returned to the national championship game, this time claiming the second-place trophy. Rast earned his second All-America honor, as did his twin brother and fellow Bronco defender Matt. In 1991, Rast was a finalist for both the Hermann Award and the Missouri Athletic Club Award, both given to the nation's top collegiate men's player. During his eight years as an assistant, Rast helped produce 67 All-West Coast Conference selections, seven All-Americans, five WCC Defenders of the Year, one WCC player of the year and numerous players that went on to a career in professional soccer. The Broncos amassed a record of 101-42-14 with five WCC titles and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. The height of Santa Clara soccer came in the late '90's when Rast helped guide the Broncos to back-to-back College Cup appearances in 1998 and '99. In his first year at the helm of the program, Rast guided the Broncos to a 10-6-1 overall record and a 3-3-0 mark in the WCC. He had six players earn All-WCC honors and one honorable mention All-American selection in Ryan Cochrane.
Up Next: Regular Season Finale at Loyola Marymount
Santa Clara heads back out on the road for its final regular season game of the year against Loyola Marymount on Saturday, November 15 at 1 p.m. Following the match the Broncos will await their postseason fate on Monday, November 16 at 1 p.m. Pacific time when ESPNews will broadcast live the NCAA Tournament Brackets.