SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The 2013 men's soccer season officially came to an end this past weekend with Notre Dame taking home it's program's first national championship. Though Santa Clara was not selected for the NCAA Tournament, the Broncos' dramatic season filled with tight, grinding matches led to the program's 25th winning season (11-9-0) in 27 years and a second place finish in the West Coast Conference.
"The season had a lot of challenges early on for us but I think as much as we struggled early on, I give credit to the guys for believing in our vision and committing to it," said Bronco head coach Cameron Rast. "For the long hall, we really had a good second half of the season and I think even after our first four games we were pretty solid. We've come so close to the conference championship three years in a row and we just need to learn how to get over that hill."
With a 3-5-0 start to the season, the Broncos faced topped ranked opponents including No. 2 Washington, No. 11 New Mexico, No. 13 UC Irvine and No. 7 California.
Perhaps the biggest victory for the Broncos was down in Southern California as the Broncos faced UC Irvine (Sept. 22). With two minutes left in regulation play and a 1-1 tie, Harrison Hanley solidified the win for the Broncos.
"One of our goals for the year is to win the conference," continued Rast. "We played a good pre-conference schedule with a lot of games on the road which I think will help us out when we go on the road for conference games. Our conference is pretty solid this year and that is going to be a challenge but I think everyone is clear on what needs to be done."
After snatching the 2012 WCC title away from Santa Clara the year before, the Broncos defeated USD (Oct. 4) in overtime down in San Diego with the game-winning goal by Carlos Montes.
Falling to LMU on the road and in a tight match vs. USF, the Broncos took down St. Mary's where All-WCC Freshman Team honoree Edson Cardona picked up the game-winner in the 97th min. and Harrison Hanley had a good showing with a goal and an assist.
In the very next match, Hanley led the team to a 2-0 victory vs. Gonzaga (Oct. 18) putting away both goals for the Broncos. Hanley came alive in his senior season leading the team with 14 points for his six goals and two assists.
As the Broncos headed up to the Pacific Northwest to face Portland and Gonzaga for the second time in conference play, Montes highlighted the weekend scoring the game-winner in both matches gave him the honor of WCC Player of the Week (Nov. 4).
"Carlos has been a warrior for us," said Rast. "He comes to training with a high level of intensity every week and he has been working on his game relentlessly. You can't say enough about what he brings to the table and a lot of it is intangible. We measure some of the goals he's had for us this year as very impactful but in many ways he is more impactful for us based on how hard he works defensively and in front of the net."
Picking up a 1-0 win vs. Saint Mary's, the Broncos got revenge on Bay Area rival USF as Michael Gates and Daus secured the 2-1 victory. The Broncos headed into the final weekend of the regular season still in the running for the WCC title.
"This is the position you want to be in," said Rast. "When you get to the last games of the regular season, you want to be playing for something, you want to be in the mix. We've played consistently well over the last month and I think we feel good about how we're playing and getting results. Having your fate in your own hands is a great position to be in right now."
Santa Clara was unable to come back after going down a goal to LMU. The Lions went on to win the match 1-0 and were crowned WCC Champions. But with one game still left in the regular season, the Broncos didn't let up and beat USD for the second time this season with goals by seniors Keigo Kameya and Hanley.
"I'm really proud and happy for them," said Rast about the seniors. "You want be able to go out on a note that exemplifies your career here and for them to each score and Keigo to get the game-winner I think is special for them and great for us to finish up the regular season."
A number of Broncos were named to the All-WCC teams including Montes who represented the Broncos on the First Team, Daus and Hanley gained Second Team honors and Parker Holland and Cardona earned spots on the All-Freshman Team.
In his first year as the starting goalkeeper for the Broncos, Kendall McIntosh grew into his own picking up 6 shutouts, 87 saves (the second highest of WCC goalkeepers), and All-WCC Honorable Mention honors.
"In so many ways, this was a freshman year for Kendall this year," said Rast. "This was a year of growth for him, a year of improvement, a year of really getting his feet under his play and as the season wore on he was getting better and better. I think towards the end of the season, he may have been the top goalkeeper in the conference."
The team is looking forward to working hard over the off-season and coming back next year to compete for the conference championship.