Women’s soccer wins the West Coast Conference championship.

SCU women’s soccer returned from its opening road trip to Virginia last August looking nothing like a team expected to exhibit greatness: two losses in two games by a combined total of 6 to 0. Even at the hand of top-ranked opponents, such defeats seemed ominous. But the players quickly made good on Coach Jerry Smith’s promise to learn from the drubbing. Back at Buck Shaw Stadium, they routed Long Beach State 4–0, setting the tone for the remainder of a season that was marked by stout defense and offensive torrents.

The ingredients for success were obvious: an all-star roster headed by three WCC first-team selections, including seniors Morgan Marlborough, the league’s top scorer, and Julie Johnston, the WCC Player of the Year, a field general whom Smith calls one of the greatest to ever don a Santa Clara jersey.

“Julie is our best defender, best attacker, and best leader,” he says.

A star north and south

Come the NCAA playoffs, the brightest star may have been the youngest of SCU’s first-team selections—junior Sofia Huerta, whose speed and skills had already earned the attention of espnW, which wrote about her emergence as a budding star for Mexico, her father’s homeland. At the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in Japan in 2012, Huerta scored in each of Mexico’s first three games, propelling El Tricolor to the knockout round for just the second time in the event’s history. Her heroics earned her a call-up to the country’s full national team.

Broncos beat BYU Cougars: Sofia Huerta (11), Katie Speidel (27), and Morgan Malborough (3). Final score 3–1. Photo by Denis Concordel

For Santa Clara, Huerta was also an offensive mainstay, finishing the 2013 regular season behind only Marlborough in goals. Once in the playoffs, her steady output turned as automatic as it had been in Japan.

In three games, Huerta scored three times, including the winning goal in the first-round victory over Cal and a lightning strike within the first 90 seconds against Boston University, the nation’s stingiest defense. That game propelled the women to a meeting against hosts Virginia Tech, the Broncos’ first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2009.

Sweet sorrow

Against the Hokies, Huerta scored yet again, letting loose a rocket from outside the box that flew into the upper left corner to tie the game at 1–1. But in the end, the Broncos’ return to the state of Virginia proved a heartbreaker. With the score still locked at 1–1 after double overtime, the teams turned to penalty kicks to break the tie. Virginia Tech prevailed 3–1.

Jump and kick:Morgan Malborough ’14. Photo by Denis Concordel

Coach Smith, who claimed his 400th coaching victory earlier in the season, was gracious in defeat. His team, which outshot the Hokies, played one of its best games of the season, staying on the front foot the entire game.

“We played our hearts out,” Johnston agreed, fighting tears after the loss ended her Santa Clara career. “It’s the cruel thing about this game, you just don’t know which way it’s going to go.”

But we do know a few things: The final coaches’ poll of the season put the Broncos at No. 7 in the nation. Johnston was called up in December to train for the U.S. National Team, and she and Huerta were named to the All-American team. And the National Soccer Coaches Association of America named Smith the western region’s coach of the year.

post-image Global kick: Sofia Huerta ’15 scored a hat trick against Gonzaga. And last year she debuted with the Mexican national team. Photo by Denis Concordel
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