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Monday, January 24, 2022

Can Santa Clara repeat as women’s soccer champion? Home-field advantage should help

After winning the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship last season, Santa Clara is back for more.

This time on home ground.

Unseeded Santa Clara (15-5-2) will take on West Coast Conference rival and No. 4 seed Brigham Young (17-4-1) in a national semifinal on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Florida State and Rutgers, both top seeds, will face each other in the other College Cup semifinals at SCU on Friday at 4 p.m.

The winners advance to the final, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday, but if BYU goes ahead it will be moved to Monday so that Mormon University can observe the Sabbath.

In a show of WCC power, both BYU and Santa Clara landed No. 1 seeds on the road to getting here.

Santa Clara coach Jerry Smith said, “We think the WCC is a terrific women’s football conference, and I hope the winner of our game to win the national championship will put an exclamation point on just how good the WCC is.”

Last season, the 11th-seeded Broncos earned their second NCAA title and the first since 2001 in a short and delayed season, following a 1–1 draw in May in penalty kicks with a 4–1 shocker over Florida State. earned due to the COVID pandemic. ,

Now the Broncos are back quickly and buoyed by a nine-game winning streak in the NCAA Tournament.

“When we won the championship in ’01, we went back to the finals in ’02, so there’s something about winning the championship that gives your team a lot of confidence,” Smith said.

The Broncos, 8-0-1 at home in the season, beat top-seeded Duke 2-1 in the quarterfinals, courtesy of first-half goals by offensive giants Izzy D’Aquila and Kelsey Turnbow. BYU won its first trip to the College Cup with a 4–1 victory over South Carolina.

Smith’s team beat BYU, the country’s highest-scoring team, with 77 goals, 1–0 in Turnbow’s 74th minute on 30 October, and goalkeeper Kylie Fouche saved two clutches late. Smith described the Cougars as the best team he had faced throughout the season.

BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said the Cougars are looking forward to Friday’s rematch.

“You don’t think you’re going to get (a rematch) in a game of this magnitude, but we’ll take it,” she said. “Obviously, they are a very talented team, to be national champions. They have a lot of weapons.”

Should Santa Clara overtake BYU, it could face another familiar foe in Florida State, giving the Seminoles a chance to avenge last year’s championship loss.

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Smith described the regular season as “a bit rocky” for his team, as there was little time between seasons. Having finished in May, they started again in July, receiving their championship rings and watches in October and still celebrating in November.

“Obviously we like to celebrate, but it was a distraction for this current season, not to mention that you’ve got a big goal on your back, not to mention that we spent most of the road. Played a tough programme. I think it made us stronger,” he said.

A look at the College Cup teams:

Santa Clara

Senior F Kelsey Turnbow, who leads the Broncos with 11 goals, 12 assists and 34 points, has been named a Mac Harmon Award semifinalist. Senior M Alex Loera and Turnbow were the first-team All-West regional selections. Despite losing a player in the final 29 minutes, the Broncos went on to lead Wisconsin 2-1 in the third round. SCU has been to 31 NCAA Tournaments, 11 College Cups and won national championships in 2001 and 2020. SCU’s three losses this season have come against No. 3 Virginia, No. 4 UCLA and Stanford. Coach Jerry Smith has 523 career wins, the third-highest in Division I history.


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