Santa Clara - Three Star Recruiting Class. - The Broncos shook off a 1-4-0 start last year to finish 11-6-2 overall with an 8-2-2 mark in West Coast Conference play. However, for the second season in a row Santa Clara finished in the number two spot in the West Coast Conference race. As a result the Broncos once again found themselves on the outside looking in when it came to an at-large berth in the NCAA Tourney. Santa Clara was among the best teams in the country that did not earn an invite to the NCAA Tourney last year but as they say close only counts in horseshoes and grenade throwing.
A solid core of players returns including six starters from the 2012 team reinforced by a seven member recruiting class. However, any discussion of Santa Clara heading into the 2013 season has to begin with the fact that the Broncos will be without the services of forward Erik Hurtado and goalkeeper Larry Jackson due to graduation. Hurtado, the 2012 WCC Player of the Year, finished a brilliant career as the program's third best all-time goal scorer and was the number five pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Jackson was a three year starter and was named the 2012 WCC Goalkeeper of the Year.
Santa Clara's seven man recruiting class includes five U.S. Soccer Development Academy players. It is a balanced class that should add depth across the board. Head coach Cameron Rast stated, "The class for this year has a quality blend of intelligent soccer minds, plenty of athleticism and a group committed to helping us reach the highest level of the collegiate game."
The Broncos have developed quite a progression of talented goalkeepers. With Jackson departing, sophomore Kendall McIntosh who has served between the pipes for the U.S. U-20 Men's National Team is the projected starter in goal in 2013. McIntosh may have a slight learning curve but you can pretty much count on him hitting the ground running so don't expect a drop off in the level of play between the pipes.
Traditionally Santa Clara has been tenacious on the defensive side of the ball. In other words there is an expectation and appreciation for the value of solid team defense. Certainly something you would expect from a program with a head coach that was an All-American defender (sweeper) at Santa Clara and an associate head coach who was an All-America goalkeeper for the Broncos.
Perhaps that is among the reasons why Santa Clara's 5-3 loss to San Jose State in the friendly confines of Shaw Stadium last year served as a wakeup call that appeared to get the Broncos back on track. Clearly that contest was a tipping point for the Broncos season. Five of the total of twenty-one goals that Santa Clara allowed all season came in that one contest. The Broncos rarely ever give up more than two goals per game.
The backline should be the strength of the Broncos in 2013. Santa Clara will be without backs Wes Culver and Gabriel Romero, who sustained an injury that sidelined him for most of the season, due to graduation but a very solid nucleus returns led by four-year starters and team captains Mark Daus and Phillip Muscarella. Center back Daus was a 2012 All-WCC First Team selection. Both Daus and Muscarella are highly reliable and consistent performers. Look for them to set the pace for the team in 2013. Sophomore Matt Escobar who was a starter last year also returns to give the Broncos a backline that should be as strong as any in the WCC.
The Broncos have some rebuilding to do in the midfield due to the graduation of defensive oriented Danny Maeda, fifth year senior center mid Murphy Campbell (0g, 1a) and Alex Fitshen (1g, 2a). The good news is that sophomore attacking mid Ryan Masch, a 2012 WCC All-Freshman Team selection, returns with the benefit of a very productive freshman season under his belt. Masch is a playmaker and Santa Clara will need a big year out of him on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore defensive mid Max Ornstill, a 2012 WCC All-Freshman selection, also had a solid rookie season which should bode well for his ability to contribute in 2013. Seniors Harrison Hanley (0g, 1A) and Michael Gates (0g, 1a), junior Glen Vass (1g, 1a) who missed a significant portion of the 2012 season due to injury, and sophomore Dylan Autran are among other returning midfielders who should be in the mix for plenty of playing time in 2013.
Nowhere do the Broncos have a greater need for reinforcement than they do up-top, due to the departure of Hurtado who has led the Broncos in virtually every offensive category since arriving on campus in 2009. Replacing Hurtado will not be an easy task. Senior Carlos Montes (3g, 3a), who has been a starter for the past three seasons, is the guy that Santa Clara will likely look to for big play ability up-top. Montes can't do it alone but look for his ability to finish the scoring opportunities that come his way to have a huge impact on the effectiveness of the Bronco attack. Senior forward Keigo Kameya (1g, 0a) who also has been a starter for the past three seasons will give Santa Clara another experienced and stable option up-top. Sophomore Jared Hegardt who appeared in fifteen games last year is among the young guns with the potential to add to the attack.
The league champion has been the only representative from the West Coast Conference in the NCAA Tournament in four of the past five seasons. The WCC includes several schools with historically successful programs but in the recent past the conference in general has not fared well overall against non-conference competition in regular season play. However, it should be noted that for the past two seasons the WCC has had a representative in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tourney. In 2011 WCC champion Saint Mary's advanced to the Elite Eight were they were topped 2-0 by North Carolina in Chapel Hill. In 2012 WCC champion San Diego had a run that ended in Washington, D.C. when they were topped in the Elite Eight 3-1 by Georgetown.
The Broncos appear to be well positioned for another run at the WCC title in 2013. Clearly offensive productivity is the "elephant in the room" at this point for Santa Clara. Critical success factors in 2013 include finishing a higher percentage of the scoring opportunities that come their way and the development of the physical and mental toughness and depth as a team that will enable the Broncos to avoid the four or five game tailspin they have experienced over the past few seasons during which they have had trouble coming up with a game changing play. Solve that and this is a team that has a good chance of ending the two season drought of absence from the NCAA Tourney field.
Micah Cabagbag - Forward - Honolulu, Hawaii - Iolani High School - All-ILH Conference selection. 2011 All-State selection. Abunai Soccer Academy. Hawaii ODP team. ODP Region IV Pool.
Brennan Castro - Defender - Los Angeles, California - Bentwood School - Played for Real So Cal. Invited to play in the NI Milk Cup with the Irvine Strikers. Second Team All-League for Brentwood School as a freshman and sophomore.
Haru Kent - Defender - Tokyo, Japan - The American School in Japan - Three-time Varsity Kanto Plain Tournament Champions. Scored eighteen goals in junior season. Earned Soccer Golden Boot and MVP Offense.
Alexander Ligeti - Defender - Boca Raton, Florida - North Broward Prep - Member of Weston FC Development Academy. Netted twelve goals and contributed fourteen assists as a defender.
Edson Cardona - Midfielder - San Jose, California - Bellarmine College Prep - Played for DeAnza Force Academy. As a freshman in 2009 he led the teams in goals scored.
Parker Holland - Defender - San Diego, California - Cathedral Catholic - Played club for the San Diego Surf. ODP. Also played as a point guard for high school basketball team.
Steve Eneme - Forward - York, Penn. - Shattuck-St.Mary's HIgh School - Played for Shattuck-St. Mary's Academy. Leading goal scorer for club team in 2011-2012.