Nation's Best Prepare For El Classico

Sept. 7, 2005

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The similarities between Santa Clara University and the University of Notre Dame go way beyond the fact that both are Catholic institutions of higher education.

The two schools were founded approximately nine years apart -- Notre Dame in 1842 and Santa Clara in 1851. Both have a beautiful historic church sitting on its grounds -- Mission Santa Clara de Asís, the eighth of the original 21 California missions, is the centerpiece of SCU. At Notre Dame, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart rises above the treelines.

Both are highly competitive institutions academically and possess some of the highest graduation rates among all NCAA Division I instutions in the country.

On Friday night, in a stadium that bears the name of a 1922 graduate of Notre Dame and one of Santa Clara's most beloved football coaches, the similarities between the two schools will take centerstage.

The undefeated and fifth-ranked Santa Clara Bronco women's soccer team hosts the top-ranked and defending national champion Fighting Irish in the second match of the annual adidas Classic at 7 p.m. in Buck Shaw Stadium. Gonzaga University, like Santa Clara a Catholic school from the West Coast Conference, will play Cal State Fullerton in the first match of the doubleheader at 4:30 p.m.

Both matches will feature live coverage via the Internet on SantaClaraBroncos.com. The Santa Clara vs. Notre Dame matchup will be televised live by Comcast SportsNet West with Jim Kozimor and Krista Blunk calling the action.

Advance tickets are available for this highly-anticipated matchup by calling the SCU Athletic Ticket Office at 408/554-4660 or by clicking here. A coupon that provides 2-for-1 adult general admission tickets will appear in Thursday's San Jose Mercury News.

Santa Clara, the 2001 national champions and 10-time College Cup participants, enters Friday's match with a 2-0-1 record following a successful road trip last weekend at the Wake Forest ACC/WCC Challenge in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Broncos held the 17th-ranked Demon Deacons scoreless on the road in a 0-0 draw, then were afforded the opportunity to play 19 of the 20 players who traveled in a 3-1 victory over Virginia Tech.

"We are way ahead of where we were last year and we are also way ahead of where we were four years ago when we won the national title," said SCU head coach Jerry Smith. "Playing in a cross-country road trip early in the season is always a real challenge and we came away remaining undefeated on the season. Oftentimes when we play on the road, particularly out of region, we are one of the biggest games on our opponent's schedule."

Notre Dame, the national champions in 1995 and 2004, bring a 4-0-0 record into Friday's match after outscoring its first four opponents by a whopping 27-2 margin. Last weekend, the Fighting Irish defeated 11th-ranked Florida by a 4-1 margin then defeated Maryland 6-0 to win its own Inn at Saint Mary's Soccer Classic in South Bend, Ind.

"I think test is a key word as we approach Friday's match," said Smith. "We get a rare opportunity to test ourselves against the number one ranked team and the defending national champion. And, we get a chance to play a team that defeated us twice last year and knocked us out of the NCAA Tournament.

"Despite that, we can't look at this as a revenge game. We look it as an opportunity to play a team that had our number twice last year and see how we stack up at this early point in the season."

The two teams have played 10 times previously and twice last season. In the first matchup in South Bend on Sept. 5, Megan Kakadelas tied the score at 2-2 with a goal in the 81st minute. The Irish then went on to score three goals in the final seven minutes of the match to take a 5-2 victory.

After both teams advanced to the NCAA College Cup in Cary, N.C., the Broncos having knocked-off top-ranked North Carolina in an historic match less than a week previous in Chapel Hill, N.C., Irish defender Candace Chapman scored the match's only goal in a 1-0 victory to move to the national title game.

On Sunday, Notre Dame will play Gonzaga at 11 a.m. while Santa Clara hosts Cal State Fullerton in a 1 p.m. matchup. Following the afternoon contest, the Santa Clara coaches and players will be available for a free autograph session.

Santa Clara returns home Friday, Sept. 16 to face another top-10 team when it hosts UCLA in a 5:30 kickoff at Buck Shaw Stadium.