On to the Quarterfinals
On a dark and rainy Bay Area day, Santa Clara women's soccer beat North Carolina State 3-0 Sunday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
The Broncos (12-4-6) have posted three shutouts in three NCAA Tournament games while scoring seven goals. It was the first time Santa Clara has picked up three consecutive shutouts in the tournament since 2004, the last year the team made the College Cup.
"Anytime you can win in the third round and advance to the quarterfinals, it's a great win," Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith said. "You only get so many of those opportunities. It's really hard to get to the quarterfinals so we're really proud of our team. One of the things I'm most proud of today is that we were able to come back after a huge win against Stanford Friday. We were able to put that awesome win behind us and prepared well. It showed out there today."
The Bronco defense blocked eight of the Wolfpack's (11-7-4) 18 shots and Melissa Lowder was rock-solid in net yet again, saving all six balls NC State put on frame. Santa Clara scored on three of its seven shots.
"What we do defensively is designed to keep you from getting around the corner and crossing the ball," Smith said. "That defense will always concede more shots. We're hoping those shots will be from distance and not as difficult to handle. We're also a big believer in fewer shots, more goals. We pass up a lot of long shots to try and get closer to the goal. I'm proud of my team that they were disciplined enough to not take bad shots."
The Broncos took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute off a penalty kick taken by Jordan Jesolva. She finished left side as the goalkeeper dove right. Ella Bonner attempted to stop a ball in the box by going her knees but the ball skipped on the wet field and hit her in the arm for a hand ball.
Tziarra King had the best chance for NC State in the 72nd minute and almost tied the game. She worked to get down the field and into the box before shooting far post and past the diving Lowder but the shot hit the post and Santa Clara cleared.
The Broncos would respond with a pair of insurance goals in the next four minutes.
Julie Vass added the first in the 80th minute. A pass from the right side went to Vass in the box and she wrestled the ball away from a defender whose momentum pushed her up field. The shot went over the keeper and off the crossbar before bouncing down and in.
Minutes later, on a free kick in the 84th, Brittany Ambrose made it 3-0 Broncos. She curled a free kick from just outside the box to the right post. The goalkeeper got a hand on the ball and it appeared to not cross the end line but the referee signaled for the goal.
Santa Clara plays at Georgetown Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific in the quarterfinals.
"We don't take anything for granted and Georgetown is a great team," Smith said. "We have to travel to their place and play on their field but our kids have earned the right to play in the quarterfinals. That puts them one game away from the College Cup in our back yard. That's a motivating factor for us."
A Bronco win on Saturday would put them in the 11th College Cup in program history. This year's is at Avaya Stadium, just down the road from the Santa Clara campus.