The goalie with the golden gloves

Bianca Henninger ’12 earns global glory

There’s no denying that the U.S. team fell short of expectations in the Under 20 Women’s World Cup last summer. They traveled to Germany in July hoping to raise the trophy and left after losing to Nigeria in the quarterfinals. But the early exit only emphasized how much respect goalkeeper Bianca Henninger ’12 gets from the rest of the world. After giving up just two goals in five matches, Henninger received the vaunted Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

Rarely do players who don’t make the semifinals get such distinctions, says SCU Coach Jerry Smith. But then, not every goalie maintains the kind of confidence and focus Henninger does—qualities that have helped establish her as one of the country’s best goalies, despite being only 5 feet 6 inches. In a position that rewards height, Henninger is 3 to 6 inches shorter than most other elite goalies, Smith says, but her ability to read the game makes up for it. She sees problems before they develop.

She also has the ability to step up when the spotlight is brightest. In November 2009, Coach Smith tapped Henninger to take the first penalty kick in a shootout against Oklahoma State, which had fought SCU to a 1–1 tie in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. There were good reasons to choose someone else. Henninger had never taken a penalty in a real game before. And if she missed, Smith risked distracting her from her prime duties—saving OSU’s shots. But the longtime coach says he knew from practice that she had deadly aim; even if she whiffed, it would only make her more determined.

She cracked her shot into the upper left corner. Then she got back to her regular job, thwarting two of OSU’s penalties and securing Santa Clara’s victory.

“If you want to talk about the player who is most directly responsible for getting a team to the Sweet 16, start with Santa Clara sophomore keeper Bianca Henninger,” the website ESPN.com soon wrote.

Her play has made her a candidate this season for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy, the top award for a college soccer player, which is given out in January. The Los Gatos native, who grew up watching SCU soccer and going to Santa Clara soccer camps, is as outstanding in the classroom. As a sophomore at SCU, she was named to the WCC All-Academic Honorable Mention Team. She’s also a third-generation Bronco: Her mother, Marilyn Moreno ’79, uncle Jose H. Moreno Jr. ’83, and grandfather Jose H. Moreno Sr. ’51, J.D. ’51 all attended Santa Clara.

post-image Nice save: Bianca Henninger stops a shot against Cal. Photo: Son Jedlovec
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