Sweet Sixteen, that is. And Freshman of the Year. The Broncos charged hard into the women’s NCAA soccer tourney, making it to the third round before falling to South Carolina.
Led by a roster of young goal scorers, Santa Clara finished the year with the deepest run into the NCAA tournament among West Coast Conference members. The Broncos also notched 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 of the NCAA tournament represented the 53rd post-season win in program history. Alas, the team missed the NCAA tournament quarterfinals by one goal, falling 1–0 in a tight match on Nov. 19 against No. 5 South Carolina.
“We made it a tight game, which was goal No. 1,” said Coach Jerry Smith in a press conference following the match with the Gamecocks. “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 postseason—what Smith refers to as “the third season.”
SCU has had a lot of success in the third season, making it all the way to the Elite 8 last year. “Fifteen of our previous 30 have ended up in the Elite 8,” Smith told players in a pre-tourney team meeting. “And that’s not pressure, that’s opportunity. We’re one of the lucky ones who get a third season.”
While that opportunity ultimately 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 13 goals. She also had five assists and was named All-Conference Freshman of the Year. 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. Plus, Turnbow landed a spot on the U.S. Women’s Under-20 team. That took her to France for a pair of games in March.
But you don’t just win games by scoring. In a key spot, Melissa Lowder ’19 was a stalwart goalie once again. She appeared 16 times in the net and made 64 saves. She had four shutouts.