Santa Clara Women Set to Begin Conference Play

Oct. 6, 2005

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - It will be a weekend of transition for the fifth-ranked Santa Clara women's soccer team as they wrap up their non-conference schedule against Fresno State Friday night at Buck Shaw Stadium before traveling to San Diego to open up West Coast Conference play against the Toreros Sunday afternoon.

Following a week in which they went 2-1, defeating San Jose State and Oakland but dropping a tough 1-0 decision to No. 18 Stanford, the Broncos now face a pair of matches against teams with losing records. Fresno State (3-6-1) heads into Friday's match looking for an upset before kicking off WAC play on Sunday, while San Diego's record (3-7-1) is not quite indicative of the team's ability.

"San Diego's record is not reflective of the talented team that they have, more so it is reflective of the brutal non-conference schedule that they've played," head coach Jerry Smith said about the Toreros' challenging non-conference schedule, which included losses to ranked schools like North Carolina, UCLA, Duke and Wake Forest. "Probably the two toughest schedules in the country at this point have been Santa Clara and San Diego. They are well-prepared and I think they are a real dangerous opponent."

Sunday will mark the second year in a row that the Broncos and Toreros meet in each team's WCC opener. San Diego upset Santa Clara 2-1 last season on the strength of goals by forwards Michelle Rowe and Amy Epsten, players who will again be on the opposite end of the pitch Sunday afternoon.

Yet the Broncos are coming off of strong performances over the weekend, despite the loss against Stanford. Meagan Snell has recorded two goals and three assists in the last five matches, while Tina Estrada accounted for both of Santa Clara's goals last Sunday in the 2-0 defeat of Oakland.

The Broncos have also been impressive on the defensive end as well, limiting their last six opponents to a combined four goals. Goalkeeper Julie Ryder picked up her fourth shutout of the season Sunday, lowering her goals-against average to 0.56, while Meagan McCray held firm against San Jose State to record her second career victory. Lauren Zealear and Danielle Potts have excelled as the center backs thus far in the season, with Zealear already having a Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week berth under her belt this season.

"The number one thing is always to win the conference championship," Smith added. "Last year we dropped our first game, which was against San Diego, and I think we'll be reminding the team of that. We'd like to be a little more prepared starting out the first game of conference play this year than we were last year."

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Buck Shaw Stadium against the Bulldogs and for noon Sunday against San Diego. Both matches this weekend will feature live online Gametracker coverage via SantaClaraBroncos.com and tickets are available for Friday night's match by calling (408) 554-4660.