“We’re Absolutely Back.”

A dynasty renewed by a Cinderella finish.

Leave the world a little better than you found it. Good advice for life and soccer, Jordan Jesolva ’17 thinks. Playing at Santa Clara comes with the weight of a national title perched on your shoulders. Carrying that legacy forward is a thrilling and awesome responsibility.

Sitting at 9–6–4 at regular season’s end, the Broncos were in danger of missing the NCAA tournament this season. But they weren’t done.

Eleven years since its last Elite Eight, Santa Clara roared deep into the playoffs. The Broncos rode a disciplined offense and gritty defense. Wunderkind goalie Melissa Lowder ’19 shut out three straight opponents, including top-seeded Stanford—a favorite to win the title—and N.C. State. In the end, the Broncos fell a game short of the national semifinals, losing to Georgetown 1–0 in the national quarterfinals. But they’re dreaming of more rings.

“People didn’t really expect anything from us,” Jesolva says. “It definitely was just [us] trying to prove everyone wrong.”

This late-season run was about redemption in a way. At least making things right. After tearing her ACL as a sophomore, Jesolva effectively lost the majority of two seasons to injury—going scoreless each year, for the first time in her life. As a senior, she found new life via a midseason position change, leading the team in goals with 10, including four in her final five games.

“Our program hasn’t been to the Elite Eight in a long time,” Jesolva says. “Being able to leave that challenge to every other team coming into the program is pretty cool.”

The Elite Eight run, combined with a strong incoming recruiting class and the arrival of transfer Maria Sanchez ’19 (a member of Mexico’s World Cup team), gives the program momentum. Shortly after the loss to Georgetown, Jerry Smith was already looking to next year. With the Final Four at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, the coach had his players watch Georgetown practice on SCU’s field. Meanwhile, he hit the road.

“We landed a huge recruit … and I sent a text to my staff from the road saying ‘We are absolutely back,’” Smith says. “We’re looking forward to being in the conversation every year for the national championship.”

post-image Santa Clara won nine of its final 11 games of the season before falling to Georgetown 1-0. View full image. Photo by Don Jedlovec
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