Broncos Finish Season Strong, Undefeated in Last Five Matches
Final Stats | Action Photos
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Santa Clara dictated play and tempo en route to a lopsided 2-1 victory over San Diego - the 2009 WCC Champions. It was the regular-season finale for both teams.
Santa Clara (6-9-5; 4-5-3 WCC) played its best soccer of the year down the stretch, going 3-0-2 in the season's final three weeks.
"I think it's more a credit to who these players are," said Santa Clara Head Coach Cameron Rast when asked how he kept his team motivated after a slow start. "Their drive to want to get better, support each other and to focus on the ideals of the program, they made it happen."
Without looking at the records beforehand, the Broncos could have been mistaken for the league champs Sunday and not the visiting Toreros of San Diego (12-5-1; 8-2-1 WCC).
The Broncos pressured the USD net immediately after the introductions. Senior Ross Smith had two early scoring chances, Eric Masch another and Erik Hurtado blasted a shot off the crossbar - all in the first 10 minutes.
With Santa Clara dominating play in the first half, USD was called for a handball deep in its own end, which set-up the game's first goal at the 21-minute mark. Senior Chris Sauter - who made a return from injury Friday after missing the majority of the season - headed-in the free kick from teammate Connor Mitchell.
USD generated just one shot in the first half and went without a corner kick until the 51st minute.
Santa Clara threatened throughout, following the intermission Hurtado netted a cross from Kellen Wantulok. Hurtado nearly scored two more times in the second half, missing wide from point-blank range and later having the ball roll into the far post before USD keeper Kelin Briones was able to make a desperation swipe and save.
"I think any coach goes into a season optimistic," said Rast. "We never went into a game this year thinking we couldn't win. There were two or three moments early in the year that could have changed our season and put us in a position to be watching the selection show tomorrow."
Rast praised the play of Smith and Sauter, two SCU seniors who were playing in their last collegiate match. The Broncos will return All-WCC midfielder Jalil Anibaba and its top two offensive players, Hurtado and Masch, next season.
"Our guys understand what the offseason is going to demand of them," added Rast. "We look forward to getting back after it, meeting as a team and getting refocused. There is no doubt we will miss our seniors, but I was really happy for them today."