SANTA CLARA, Calif. - In the No. 17 Santa Clara women's soccer home opener Sunday, the Broncos tied No. 8 Notre Dame 1-1. It is the team's fourth straight tie in a row – a first under head coach Jerry Smith. Three of the four ties were vs. top 25 teams. Santa Clara moves to 3-0-4 and No. 8 Notre Dame is 3-3-1. Santa Clara is 7-11-1 vs. defending national champions over the years.
"I am very proud of the team today. Anytime you have a chance to play the defending national champions and a program like Notre Dame who has multiple national titles and you feel like you played them even you have to feel good about that," said Bronco head coach Jerry Smith. "We are certainly always disappointed when we give up the lead and this is the third game in the last four where we have had a 1-0 lead headed into half time only to give it up in the first 15 minutes of the second half. I am disappointed we gave up the lead but at the same time proud that the team that won the national championship wasn't able to beat us.
"I think we grew a little bit together as a team today as well. We haven't been possessing the ball as I well as I would like and we still didn't today, but we took some steps today were we really improved in that area and because of that I am proud of the team," continued Smith. "We played some players in some new positions today. I thought those adjustments worked for us and all things considered we are reasonably happy with our results."
In the game's first attempt, Adriana Leon's shot on goal sailed over Santa Clara's cross bar at 5:40.
Notre Dame's Rebecca Twining received a yellow card at 26:16 after she knocked down Margueritte Aozasa on an aggressive play at midfield.
Allie Vernon's 10-foot pass in front of the goal to Sarah Jackson resulted in the game's first goal as Jackson headed the ball past the keeper in the 30th minute. It was Jackson's second goal this season and Vernon's first assist in 2011 after she sat out all last season due to injury.
At the half Santa Clara held a 1-0 lead.
In the 62nd minute Notre Dame's Melissa Henderson dribbled in and her ball knocked off the Bronco goalie Bianca Henninger to score an unassisted goal. It is Henderson's seventh goal on the season.
Sara Brathwaite had a shot at the end of regulation but she knocked it wide right.
Smith said he had never had a team have four straight ties or even four straight overtimes. "What's happening in the women's soccer game in my 25 years is that there is a lot more parity. It's just a lot harder to win games. If you look at anybody's winning percentage, in the last few years as compared to the last 10 or 15 years, I guarantee you everyone's is down, Notre Dame's is down, North Carolina's is down – everybody's is down. It's harder to win games even a team as good as Stanford, they already have a tie vs. Maryland. We are only one of a handful of teams in the country that is still undefeated. No one has been able to beat us. To be seven games into the season, with the type of season we have played, six away from home, three against top 11 teams, no one has been able to beat us either. We want wins, we play to win and we are always disappointed when we give up a lead in the second half, but nobody, including the defending national champions, have been able to beat us this year."
The Broncos return to the field on Sun., Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. against national runner-up Stanford.
"The women's soccer team here has five core values and one of them is to embrace the opportunity for growth and success. If you are going to grow as a team, you have to challenge yourself against the best," said Smith. "Stanford might be the best team in the country, they have played in the last two national championship games and they are undefeated this year after their come-from-behind victory vs. Notre Dame on Friday. We will embrace the opportunity to play against the best team and look to get a win against the best team number one. Number two, the Stanford-Santa Clara game is a wonderful rivalry in women's soccer. There is going to be a big crowd, several thousand people – it will be an electric atmosphere. It will be a fantastic opportunity for fans to enjoy great soccer with drama and excitement; and an opportunity for us again to grow as a team by challenging another one of the best teams in the country."