November 6, 2013

Women's Soccer Heads to Portland, Gonzaga with Sights on WCC Title

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Alone in first place in the West Coast Conference, No. 8 Santa Clara women's soccer wraps-up the regular season with games on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. at Portland and on Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. at Gonzaga. The game at Portland will be live on ESPNU. A win at Portland will guarantee the Broncos a share of the WCC title. Two wins on the weekend will give Santa Clara the outright title.

The Broncos showed the ability to come back in their 9-2 win vs. Pepperdine after falling behind 2-0 early. This is something the coaches were very happy to see.

"We are happy with the team's resiliency," said Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith. "The last time we are down two goals was the opening weekend of the year and we folded. You have to be determined and in the Virginia and North Carolina games we got behind and we didn't show the toughness, resiliency and determination to come back. We accepted that we were behind and accepted that we were probably going to lose the game. What I loved in the first half against Pepperdine was an even greater determination to get the goals back. At halftime we talked about a couple of things we wanted to do differently defensively and how we would clean that up. More importantly, we talked about how we could score more goals. We came out of halftime scoring goals right away and didn't let up. I think that gives us confidence going forward. Next time, if we get in that situation again, we'll be able to look back at this game and say we have come from behind in a few games and even come from two down."

The Broncos have scored 20 goals in their last three games after scoring nine each against San Francisco and Pepperdine and two against LMU. It is the most goals in a three game stretch for Santa Clara since Oct. 9-14, 2001 when the team scored 21 goals with a 6-1 win vs. Fresno State, a 5-0 win vs. San Francisco and a 10-0 win at Gonzaga.

"We've had some great scorers here but to have 20 goals in a three-game span is very tough to do," said Smith. "We knew we had good goal scoring potential and we said before the season we would be able to score goals. The players have to stay disciplined because we're not scoring big numbers of goals every time we're out there. As coaches we hope the team will have the maturity and discipline to stay in the moment and not get ahead of ourselves."

With a big trip to a tough place to play coming up, Smith knows that the team has to stay focused on the present and can't ride the good feelings that come with scoring so many goals.

"In sports we get ahead of ourselves all the time," continued Smith. "We live up to a couple things in our program and one is good offense wins championships. The other one we stay committed to is that you're only as good as your next game. I think we're a little guilty of going into the LMU game and shooting from everywhere thinking everything was going to go in. Hopefully we learned a valuable lesson coming off another game where we scored nine goals."

Santa Clara has outscored opponents 50-16 and a whopping 29-3 in conference action. The 50 goals lead the WCC by 16 and rank the Broncos third nationally. They are also tied for first in the WCC with 33 assists. The Broncos are nearly doubling-up opponents in shots 322-181 and 159-92 in shots on goal. They are dominating both halves, outscoring teams 26-8 in the first half and 23-7 in the second half. Santa Clara has nine shutouts on the season, tied for the conference-lead, and the 0.94 GAA is third in conference.

The Broncos' offense is led by a trio with double-digit goals scored. Julie Johnston leads the WCC with 12 goals, six assists and 30 points. Johnston has scored four game-winners in 2013. Morgan Marlborough is third in the conference with 11 goals and has five assists, good for 27 points that puts her second in the WCC. Sofia Huerta has scored 10 goals, fourth in the conference, and added five assists for 25 points that ties her for third in the conference. Freshman Jordan Jesolva has found the back of the net five times and added two assists. Eight other Broncos have scored at least one goal while seven others have at least one assist. Andi Tostanoski has a 0.95 GAA while making 74 saves. Tostanoski has a .831 save percentage, tops in the WCC, and has picked up six solo shutouts.

Santa Clara is 15-14-3 all-time against Portland. The Broncos and Pilots have faced off three times in the NCAA Tournament with Santa Clara going 1-2-0. Last season the two teams battled to a 2-2 tie at Buck Shaw.

"This is a chance to redeem ourselves from the last time we were on ESPN in front of a big crowd," said Smith. "For 83 minutes of the Stanford match we felt pretty good about what we did but at the end of the game we did not show grace under pressure. The pressure of a big crowd, the pressure of live television and the pressure of playing a top-10 opponent got to us. We have all of that headed into Portland plus an away crowd, which is a wonderful opportunity for us. I told the team that if you're going to have success in the Final Four, you have to be comfortable in that kind of environment and we have a chance to practice that. We're looking forward to being in that environment and handling it better than we did the last time."

Portland enters the week with a 14-2-1 overall record and a 6-1-0 mark in conference action. The Pilots' two losses came to No. 7 Wake Forest 3-2 and No. 24 BYU 1-0. They also tied No. 2 Stanford on the road 1-1.

The Pilots have outscored opponents 34-14 and outshot teams 209-171. They have 96 shots on goal to opponents' 70 and have picked up 91 corner kicks while allowing 62. Teams have scored just three goals in the first half against the Pilots' defense.

Micaela Capelle leads Portland with eight goals, four assists and 20 points. Amanda Frisbee is second on the team with six goals and has one assist while Ellen Parker has scored five goals to go with four assists. Four other Pilots have at least three goals each while nine others have at least one assist. Erin Dees is second in the WCC with a 0.76 GAA while making 54 saves. Dees has a .818 save percentage and six shutouts.

Santa Clara is 17-1-2 all-time against Gonzaga. Last season the Broncos took down the Zags 2-0 at Buck Shaw behind a goal each from Johnston and Dani Weatherholt.

Gonzaga enters the week 6-10-1 overall and 2-5-0 in WCC play. The Zags took Portland to overtime on the road but feel 2-1. Last week the Bulldogs lost in overtime 3-2 at Pacific and won 2-1 at Saint Mary's in double overtime.

The Zags have been outscored 21-17 but are outshooting teams 223-199. They are also winning the battle in shots on goal at 102-87. Gonzaga is winning the first half 10-7 but struggle in the second half, allowing 12 goals while scoring just six.

Heather Johnson leads the team with five goals while Karley Baggerly has scored four goals and added two assists to tie for the team lead with 10 points. Tori Lee and Emily Eckmann have each scored two goals while three other Zags have one goal apiece. Lee and Kasey Rubosky are tied for the team-lead with three assists each. Christie Tombari has a 1.28 GAA while making 65 saves. Tombari has a .756 save percentage and five shutouts.