Kelsey Turnbow '21 kicks a ball during a game against BYU

Kelsey Turnbow '21 kicks a ball during a game against BYU

Sweet Sixteen for 2017

Women’s Soccer takes its NCAA tourney run to the third round before falling to South Carolina.

It was a season of slim differentials separating Santa Clara Broncos’ women’s soccer from high aspirations to stratospheric ambitions.

Led by a roster of young goal scorers, Santa Clara finished 2017 with the deepest run into the NCAA tournament among West Coast Conference members, on top of notching second place in conference play with a league leading 46 goals and 127 points. A 3–1 victory over Vanderbilt Nov. 17 in round two represented the 53rd post-season win in program history.

The team missed the NCAA tournament quarterfinals by one goal, falling 1-0 in a tight match Nov. 19 against No. 5 South Carolina in round 3.

“We made it a tight game, which was goal number one,” said Coach Jerry Smith in a press conference following the match with the Gamecocks. “We are obviously disappointed. Still, losing to a tough team like South Carolina on their home field is no shame for us. I am really proud of my team’s effort tonight, and the great season they had.”

The Broncos’ recent NCAA Tournament appearance marked the program’s third consecutive run and 27th all-time in the post-season—what Smith refers to as “the third season.”

“The Santa Clara Broncos have had a lot of success in the third season, and last year making it all the way to the Elite 8,” Smith told players in a pre-tourney team meeting. “Fifteen of our previous 30 have ended up in the Elite 8. And that’s not pressure, that’s opportunity. We’re one of the lucky ones who get a third season.”

While that opportunity slipped away in 2017, the future remains bright for the Bronco squad. They went 15-7-1, averaging 3.2 goals per match during their nine-game winning streak. They were shut out just once during their first 22 matches. And the only loss for Santa Clara during regular conference play came in their first match, against Pepperdine, who beat out the Broncos for the conference title by a single point.

And about that bright future: Of 51 goals scored by Santa Clara this season, 39 came from first-year students and sophomores. Bronco newcomers were led on offense by Kelsey Turnbow ’21, who finished the regular season second in the WCC with 12 goals. She also had five assists. That was good enough to earn Turnbow All-Conference Freshman of the Year. She also garnered another distinction for a first-year Bronco: most goals in a season since Leslie Osborne ’05 scored 13 in 2001, the year Santa Clara won the national championship.

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Santa Clara University soccer player Kelsey Turnbow '21 (right) won All-Conference Freshman of the Year and finished the season with 12 goals and five assists. Photo by Don Jedlovec