SANTA CLARA, Calif. – On senior day, Santa Clara women's soccer beat Portland 1-0 Sunday afternoon. The win guarantees the Broncos an above .500 finish while playing the toughest schedule in the country and puts them in a strong position to make the NCAA Tournament.
For the second consecutive match, the Broncos (8-6-4, 5-2-1) dominated on the offensive end. They outshot the Pilots (9-6-3, 3-4-1) 13-1 and held a 5-1 edge in shots on goal. Santa Clara fired eight shots in the second half without allowing Portland to get one off.
Despite the offensive edge, Santa Clara was unable to get on the board until the 82nd minute. Jordan Jesolva hit a low pass into the box that deflected off some defenders and went to Maddie Gonzalez who knocked it into the back of the net to make it 1-0 Broncos.
"We weren't as sharp as we would have liked but any time you can put in a performance where you're dominating the game, you'll take it," Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith said. "Credit to Portland who was organized and tough to take down. They only gave us one clean look and even the goal was tough."
In a game that saw both teams make plenty of substitutions, Santa Clara's depth is what separated it from Portland during the match. Gonzalez, who also scored against Gonzaga on Friday, is the prime example of how valuable talent coming off the bench can be.
"I was really happy with out depth today and I thought it really helped us in the game," Smith said. "It was no surprise that a reserve player scored our goal today. I'm really happy for Maddie who scored two goals for us this weekend. She's been great for us all year but dealt with a quad injury in the middle of the year. She started strong and is finishing strong."
Since falling at No. 19 Pepperdine, the Broncos have come back with three straight wins in what have turned out to be must-wins.
"It really shows the resiliency of our team," Smith said. "We're not always the most skillful team or the prettiest team to watch but it's important to learn to win ugly. I'd rather win ugly than lost pretty any day. Our team is tough. We've had to fight hard for every win and I think the team deserves a lot of credit for that. That's what's helped us here at the end of the year."
With seven seniors honored before the game, it was appropriate that the win gives the Bronos an inside track at the postseason. They entered the game with an RPI of 34 and have three wins and three ties over RPI top-40 teams.
"We're really happy for our seniors," Smith said. "I can think of no better gift then to make sure they end their careers in the NCAA Tournament. With this win today we're in a great spot to make the NCAA Tournament. The three criteria are a high RPI, great results against the top-40, and to be .500 or better. When you play the toughest schedule in the country you're going to hover around .500 but now we're clear of that. We'll try to win our final game at USF and finish on a positive note."
The regular season wraps-up Saturday at 7 p.m. at San Francisco.
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