Season Preview: Undaunted Broncos Ready To Surprise Nation In 2007
Aug. 28, 2007
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - During Jerry Smith's 20 seasons at Santa Clara his Bronco teams have rarely played the role of underdogs. However, coming into the 2007 season, that may be the case, as the team lost 10 players to graduation and four more to injury prior to the start of a new season. Those losses have led to some pundits outside the program to predict a down year for the Broncos. Yet among the new-look coaching staff and the returning players, the optimism that has been a staple of SCU's teams in the past is still there is full force. The squad is again loaded with talent and has been bolstered by another strong class of incoming freshmen to make the team's ultimate goal no different, a spot in the College Cup and a national championship.
"I am as excited for this season as I am for every season," said Smith. "Our expectations for this year are no different than they are for any year. We may get off to a slow start with all of the changes, but I think that as the season goes along we will get better and better. By the end of the year, we will be a team that no one wants to face in the NCAA Tournament. We just want to maximize our potential and try to get back to the College Cup. The team should be motivated by our potential underdog status."
Despite the losses, the Broncos still return a host of key contributors on the field as well as a fantastic coaching staff to assist Smith. In the spring, SCU was able to lure one of the top head coaches on the West Coast, Loyola Marymount's Gregg Murphy, to the Broncos coaching staff as the program's first-ever associate head coach. Murphy spent 11 seasons at LMU and took the team to the NCAA Tournament for the first two times in program history in 2002 and 2006. He posted a 105-78-27 record during his time there and established the Lions as one of the top teams in the West Coast Conference. Murphy replaced Erin Chastain on the staff after she took the head coaching job at DePaul University.
"To be able to add someone of Gregg's knowledge and abilities to the staff is a huge boost to our staff," said Smith. "He did a great job at Loyola Marymount and we expect him to make a big contribution here."
Also joining the staff for the 2007 campaign are former Bronco star Devvyn Hawkins and Megan Walinski. Hawkins played four seasons for Santa Clara and helped the Broncos capture the program's first-ever national championship, while also earning All-America honors. For her career, Hawkins started 88 of 93 career games and recorded 21 goals and 20 assists, and also went unbeaten in three matches against North Carolina. Walinski comes to Santa Clara as the team's first-ever wellness coach. A 2000 graduate of San Jose State, Walinski played soccer for the Spartans before earning a masters degree in counseling psychology at Santa Clara. She has previously coached at Ohlone College and with Pleasanton Youth Soccer, but her primary duties at SCU will be focused on the overall wellness of the women's soccer student-athletes.
Curtis McAlister returns for his fifth season as an assistant coach and he will continue to work with the goalkeepers and defenders.
On the field, SCU returns 17 players from the 2006 squad that finished 15-5-1 and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Included in that group are former U.S. U-20 national team standouts Jordan Angeli and Amanda Poach, who will both miss the season due to injury. Joining them on the sideline is the lone remaining holdover from the 2006 starting defense, Dani Potts, who suffered a foot injury that will keep her out for the entire season.
Despite those losses, the Broncos still return a potent core of talent from back to front that should put them in the hunt to reach the program's 11th College Cup. For leadership and experience, the Broncos will look to All-WCC midfielder Brittany Klein, who had five goals and one assist as a junior last season. She will serve as one of the team captains, as she attempts to spark the Bronco offense from her attacking midfielder position. Also filling leadership positions will be seniors Tina Estrada, Chioma Igwe and Meagan Snell. Estrada returns for her final season after missing 2006 with a knee injury looking to get back to her high-scoring ways. Igwe had a strong junior season for SCU in 2006 after transferring from Cal, playing in 18 matches in midfield and scoring two goals. Snell led the Broncos in scoring a year ago with 11 tallies and was named to the 2007 M.A.C. Hermann Trophy watch list this summer.
"Brittany's leadership is going to be important for us," said Smith. "She and Jordan (Angeli) are our two captains, but with Jordan out, Brittany will have to really step up on the field for us. Having another good group of seniors should help us also, especially early in the season."
Along with the other returnees, the Broncos welcome five new freshmen to the team in 2007. Jessie Baddley, Chelsea Bednarz, Maxine Goynes, Anessa Patton and Kendra Perry make up the highly touted class. Unfortunately, Bednarz will be unavailable this season due to a foot injury.
Here is a full look at the 2007 Santa Clara women's soccer team.
The Broncos lose Julie Ryder to graduation, but 2006 starter Meagan McCray returns for her junior season and she will be backed up by fellow junior Lisa Lahman. McCray started 16 games for SCU a year ago and allowed only 10 goals for a 0.65 GAA to earn All-WCC accolades. For her career, McCray has played 23 games for the Broncos and earned nine shutouts, while possessing a 0.62 GAA.
Lahman has appeared in just one game during her Bronco career, but has continued to improve during her two seasons on the Mission Campus and should see some action this year.
"Meagan played well for us last season," said Smith. "She might have a little more pressure this season because our field players might need some time to get going early in the season. We had three senior starters on defense last year, so Meagan might have to do a bit more organizing in the back than in the past."
The Broncos suffered the heaviest losses on the backline, as all four starters from the 2006 team will not be on the field this year. WCC Player of the Year Marian Dalmy, along with All-WCC defender Lauren Zealear and Hillary Schwarzbach all finished their careers in 2006 and Dani Potts is out with an injury. The 2007 defense will be made up of a combination of Igwe, redshirt freshman Lindsey Johnson, sophomore Katherine Reynolds, senior Kendall Doherty and two freshmen, Goynes and Patton. Igwe and Johnson will likely serve as the center backs with Goynes as a potential candidate there. The other three will probably serve as outside backs. Igwe made the switch from the midfield to defense in the spring and appears ready for an excellent senior season, while Johnson is hoping to come back strong after missing her freshman season with a knee injury, suffered in the first game of the year.
On the outside, Reynolds and Patton have shown promise on the right and left respectively. Reynolds started six games last season and battled some ankle injuries, but has looked comfortable in preseason. Patton provides great pace and versatility on the left side and should make a big impact in her first season. Goynes could see time both in the middle and on the outside, while Doherty hopes to finish out her career with a strong senior season as one of the outside defenders.
"We have six players who are vying for the four spots in defense," said Smith. "None of them played in the back last season so it might take some time for those positions to get decided, but we feel confident that they will be able to have success there."
The midfield will be missing an important component with defensive midfielder Poach sidelined for the season. Without Poach, Smith's midfield will be anchored by Klein, who had a career year in 2006, scoring five goals and making the All-WCC Second Team. The Arcadia, Calif. native has now played in 63 career games and netted eight goals. She will serve as an attacking midfielder in Smith's 4-3-3 formation.
Junior Hayley Siegel is the other returnee with a number of games under her belt, as she has appeared in 40 games in her two seasons on the Mission Campus. Also an attacking player, Siegel has scored four goals and dished out five assists in her career.
Courtney Lewis is in her third season at SCU, but the Mission Viejo, Calif. native has been limited to just 10 games during that time due to injuries. She is a possible replacement for Poach in the midfield now that she has recovered.
"Both Brittany and Hayley are good attacking players and will provide us with creative play in midfield," said Smith. "We like to have our defensive midfielder set things up in our system and Courtney is a candidate to play that role."
The strength of the team heading into the season appears to be up top as the Broncos are loaded with options and talent. Snell led the team in scoring a year ago with 11 goals and 25 points to earn All-WCC First Team honors. She also proved to be clutch, scoring four game-winners to help SCU earn a No. 1 seed. Another starter back from last year is Kiki Bosio, who exploded onto the college scene as a freshman in 2006. She netted three goals and led the team with eight assists to earn Soccer America All-Freshman honors. Her goals came in big situations, as she found the net against perennial power, UCLA, before providing the game-winner in a nationally-televised 3-2 win against Portland. Bosio spent the summer playing with the U.S. U-21 team, helping the Americans capture the Nordic Cup, scoring two goals in the tournament.
Estrada, who led the team in scoring as a sophomore and junior, will also play a big role in the Broncos attack. A Fremont, Calif. native, she already finds herself amongst the school's leaders in postseason goals and points, as she has scored five goals in the NCAA Tournament in her career and recorded 13 points. Those totals place her eighth and seventh respectively in program history.
"We have a pretty talented forward line," said Smith. "We are excited to have Tina back from injury and Kiki was probably our best forward all-around last season. Meagan was our scoring leader last year and she will probably have a little extra fire to go out with a big senior year."
Sophomore Lexi Orand appeared in all 21 games a year ago, mainly as a sub, but she has the talent to become a force for the Broncos up top. She scored three goals and had three assists as a freshman. The final piece of the frontline puzzle is freshman Jessie Baddley, who was a high school All-American as a prep player in Utah last year.
The Broncos kick off the season on Aug. 31 against San Jose State and once again face one of the toughest schedules in the country. The team hosts perennial championship contenders Notre Dame and Virginia in the Santa Clara adidas Classic early in the season and will also face 2006 NCAA Tournament qualifiers Rutgers, Cal, Stanford, Cal State Fullerton and UCLA in the non-conference portion of the schedule. In WCC play, SCU was picked second in the preseason coaches poll behind Portland. The Broncos will also have to fend off strong challenges from Pepperdine, San Diego and Loyola Marymount in their quest to win their 10th WCC title.
Santa Clara heads into 2007 with more uncertainty than past seasons, but as in past years, the team is full of talent and ready for another memorable fall in the Silicon Valley. They may just carry that underdog tag all the way to the College Cup in College Station, Texas.