No. 14 Santa Clara Falls At Pepperdine, 3-2

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(Photo by widgic.com)

MALIBU, Calif. - The No. 14 Santa Clara women's soccer team dropped its regular-season finale today, losing to Pepperdine 3-2.  The Broncos, now 12-6-2 overall, fought back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game, but ultimately lost on a penalty kick converted by the Waves in the 75th minute.

Pepperdine's Callie Payetta scored the game's first goal, the first of her two goals in the game, in the 37th minute.  Laura Cole fed the ball to Michelle Manning, who then backheeled the ball to Payetta. Payetta's strike from 18 yards out beat redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Alexis Rubattino, who started her first career collegiate game in the absence of regular starter junior Bianca Henninger due to a red card ejection last game.

The Broncos were not without their chances in the first, firing off three shots on goal and forcing Waves' goalie Roxanne Barker to save all of them.  Rubattino also made three saves in the half.

Pepperdine extended its lead to two goals just minutes after the beginning of the second half.  Rebecca Klamser combined with Payetta to send a through-ball to Laura Cole. Cole poked the ball into the net past an onrushing Rubattino.

Santa Clara responded quickly, scoring just 1:02 after the Waves' second goal.  The Broncos were awarded a corner kick and sophomore Meleana Shim found her classmate Olivia Klei in the box for the header.  The goal was Klei's first of the year and the Broncos' first shot of the half.

Senior Kendra Perry nearly equalized the game at 53:39 on another header attempt, but eventually assisted on the game-tying goal a minute later. Shim recorded her second assist of the game by dishing the ball to Perry, who then set up senior Anessa Patton for her team-leading ninth goal of the season.

At 74:31, Pepperdine served a ball into the box from the right side between Rubattino and the SCU back line, and a miscommunication in the defense ensued and no one went for the ball.  The bouncing ball found its way toward sophomore forward Lauren Matheson and bounced up awkwardly into her body, catching her arm.  The Broncos were whistled for a handball in the penalty area and the Waves were awarded a penalty kick. Payetta converted, her second goal of the game, to give the Waves a 3-2 lead with just 15 minutes to play.

"The handball was sort of a weird happening where it kind of caught Lauren between her body and her arm," said head coach Jerry Smith.  "Unfortunately for us the referee saw it as a handball and the penalty kick took away all of the momentum we had built by coming back to tie the game."

Santa Clara rattled off a total of nine shots and made Barker make another four saves in the final 45 minutes, but couldn't find another equalizer.  The Broncos' best chance to tie the game in the 80th minute when senior Amanda Poach's try hit the crossbar.

Santa Clara finished with the edge in shots, 12-10, and Rubattino made a total of four saves in the game.  Barker finished with seven saves.

"I thought Lexi, in her first collegiate start, did a great job," said Smith. "But I thought that our team really missed the leadership of one of our co-captains, Bianca Henninger."

"We really have to give credit to Pepperdine today, they came out and played hard on their senior day and final game of the year," said Smith.  "We, for the second game in a row, came out flat with a lack of urgency and intensity, but more so urgency.  We put ourselves in a 2-0 hole and our team then turned up the urgency, but it's the exact same lesson as last game. We shouldn't have to put ourselves in a hole before we assert ourselves in the game.  I am hoping that after the second time our team now knows we can't start the game sluggishly, especially with the beginning of the NCAA Tournament next weekend."

The Broncos finish the season with a 12-6-2 overall record (4-3-0 WCC) and now will wait to hear where they will be slotted into the NCAA Tournament bracket. The 2010 NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament starts on Friday.  The selection show is slated for Monday, Nov. 8 and will start at approximately 1:30 PST on ESPNU.  For more information on the NCAA Tournament and the Women's College Cup, click here.