Notre Dame vs. Santa Clara, another clash of the Catholics

The NCAA preseason is somehow even more exciting than a WPS preseason. There is more stability, consistency, and potential. NCAA soccer is like a beloved soap opera, with long-running story lines, “family” histories, and recurring characters and guest stars. In fact, I far prefer college soccer over any TV series or movie. The perpetual Gryffindor vs. Slytherin’s got nothing on this. Hope Solo vs. the Boston Breakers’ Riptide cannot distract me.

Our favorite rivalry here on Cross-Conference is Santa Clara-Portland. But a personal favorite match-up of mine isn’t a rivalry so much as that one annual non-conference game where I cannot lose. With Santa Clara vs. Portland, the outcome holds significant stakes. With Santa Clara vs. Notre Dame, there is this strange sense of two sides of the same coin. There are no advantages to winning (Notre Dame currently owns the series, though, 9-6-0). It means nothing in the grand scheme of things; the results don’t impact either team’s seasons. The teams have alternated winning in recent years–generally at home–making the outcome as shockingly predictable as Bronco injuries.

The teams’ first meeting was October 8, 1995. Notre Dame hosted and won 1-0. The Irish were ranked #2 at the time, and the Broncos were #8. Santa Clara finished at #7. Notre Dame finished the season at #4, but of course beat North Carolina then Portland 1-0 for the championship. Notre Dame 1, Santa Clara 0.

Santa Clara hosted October 13, 1996. Notre Dame appears to have been having a good season. They started ranked #2 in the nation, beat UNC in Durham three games prior, and were ranked #1 to SCU’s #9 the week of the game. Despite the Broncos’ 3-1 win, the Irish maintained the top spot through the end of the season, where they beat Portland in the semis and fell 1-0 in overtime to UNC. Santa Clara climbed to #3 and not only hosted the Final Four, but played in the semis as well. Notre Dame 1, Santa Clara 1.

There is a curious gap from ’97-’98, but Santa Clara hosted once again October 17, 1999. This was a year that Santa Clara was unbeaten and top ranked, with players such as Aly Wagner, Kylie Bivens, Kim Pickup, Danielle Slaton, Devvyn Hawkins, and Jacqui Little in the starting lineup. Notre Dame, ranked #6, had the likes of Jen Grubb, Monica Gonzales, Kelly Lindsey, and Anne Makinen. The final score was 4-2, with goals by Wagner (2), Hawkins, Clemens, Makinen, and Grubb. When the two teams met later that season in the semifinals, Notre Dame prevailed 1-0, then fell to UNC in the finals. Notre Dame 2, Santa Clara 2.

Then Santa Clara went through one of the usual skids. Although the Broncos were #2 at the time, they would end the season #3 in the WCC and #7 in the nation, dropping out of the post-season in the quarter finals (a 2-1 loss to the Irish, who then lost to UNC). Notre Dame hosted the regular season match-up September 8, 2000, and won 6-1. Interesting note about this game: Jerry Smith is quoted as saying that the Broncos had only 13 players healthy for this game. Gotta love the Broncos and their shallow bench. Notre Dame 4, Santa Clara 2.

Although a Notre Dame-SCU match-up was scheduled to be hosted at Santa Clara in 2001, the September 14 game was postponed in light of 9-11 and ultimately canceled. Notre Dame (#7) ended the season poorly with a loss at home to Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Santa Clara, on the other hand, enjoyed a successful season that culminated in defeating North Carolina 1-0 in the Championship and winding up the school of choice in Bend It Like Beckham.

We can assume, given that SCU was supposed to host in 2001, that the Broncos would have won that year. Notre Dame hosted September 6, 2002, and Santa Clara pulled the rare road win in this series, blanking the Irish 4-0. These are some spectacular rosters. There were three US U-19 champions with the Broncos and two Canadian runners-up with Notre Dame. Cat Sigler played her one game in this series for the Irish, and sophomore transfer Megan Kakadelas made her first appearance for the Bronocs. This was SCU’s first win of the season and the first at Notre Dame. Despite a strange start to the season, Santa Clara would beat UNC in the semis and fall to Portland in the Final. Notre Dame fell to Stanford in the third round. Notre Dame 4, Santa Clara 3.

September 21, 2003, Notre Dame claimed its road win, 2-1. Goals came from Boland, Thorlakson, and Dalmy. SCU bowed out of the postseason in a quarterfinal loss to UNC, and Notre Dame struggled, falling in the second round to Michigan. Notre Dame 5, Santa Clara 3.

September 5, 2004 marked a return to South Bend and a return to the home team winning. Notre Dame, ranked #2, beat #4 Santa Clara 5-2. Katie Thorlakson notched a hat trick and two assists, with those goals going to Jen Buczkowski and Candace Chapman. Seniors Leslie Osborne and Megan Kakadelas scored for the Broncos. Notre Dame was pretty much on fire, ending the season by beating SCU in the semifinals 1-0, then conquered UCLA in PKs to win the championship. Notre Dame 7, Santa Clara 3.

“It sure is great when a plan comes together.” Sort of ridiculous, but hosts Santa Clara (#5/#6) beat top-ranked Notre Dame 2-1, September 5, 2005. Notre Dame’s lone goal was “assisted” by Katie Thorlakson and “scored” by former Irish Cat Sigler. UND and SCU were knocked out in the quarterfinals that year by Portland and Penn State, respectively. Notre Dame 7, Santa Clara 4.

September 3, 2006, two No. 1 ranked teams met in South Bend. Notre Dame prevailed, 3-1, and charged unbeaten into the final against North Carolina, who took the title 2-1. Santa Clara’s serious streak of injury woes began this season, and the Broncos fell in the first round of the postseason to USC. Notre Dame 8, Santa Clara 4.

The following season proved strange (and bittersweet) for both teams. Santa Clara hosted on September 7, 2007, and posted a 7-1 win over Notre Dame. Brittany Klein scored twice unassisted, and Kiki Bosio scored and assisted twice. The Broncos once again dropped in the first round, this time to Cal. Notre Dame posted a few losses, then turned its game around and headed towards the Final Four, only to fall in the semis to Florida State. Notre Dame 8, Santa Clara 5.

2008’s 2-0 result wasn’t as bad as it could have been. August 31, the two teams met in South Bend in a game that was actually webcast! Erica Iantorno scored for the Irish, and Dani Potts put in an own goal for the Broncos. Still, it was more fun than the rest of the season would be. Santa Clara got progressively worse and missed the postseason entirely, and Notre Dame broke my heart in a 2-1 loss to North Carolina in the Final. Thank God for the US U-20s that year. Notre Dame 9, Santa Clara 5.

September 11, 2009, at Santa Clara – Notre Dame was ranked 5th in the nation, and Santa Clara wasn’t even a top 25 at that point, due to a terrible 2008 and an iffy start to 2009. The Broncos won, 2-0. The recap opens with a bold statement that proved startlingly true through the end of the season: “The Santa Clara women’s soccer team made a statement to the nation this evening; the Broncos are back.” Jordan Angeli and Lauren Matheson scored for the Broncos. Notre Dame, awesome as ever with its media, offered a thorough preview and recap. I highly recommend taking video wherever you can get it. The Irish finished the season by falling to UNC in the semis (not surprising, as wasn’t a particularly good year for them), and the Broncos fought well, even through a third round 1-0 loss to unbeaten Stanford. Notre Dame 9, Santa Clara 6.

Notre Dame hosts the 2010 match-up September 3. Technically, it should be an Irish win, but only if you believe the trends. And either way, if you can appreciate both teams, what is there to lose

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7 Responses to Notre Dame vs. Santa Clara, another clash of the Catholics

  1. CScottM says:

    Nice article – I love histories like this! Is there any chance of a webcast of this year’s game?

    Love that note about Bend it Like Beckham, too; I still remember them going to SC at the end. Funny thing to remember. I suppose it would be UCLA or Stanford today….

    • vRm says:

      Last season wasn’t webcast until the postseason, and I’m not sure whether that’s because of the new stadium or a new standard. I’ll definitely post (and tweet) as soon as I know!

      Kind of odd that they ended up at SCU since the Broncos so rarely have internationals. For once, I will admit that UNC or the others would have been the better choice. ;)

      • cscottm says:

        Yeah, I was wondering about that. I didn’t think anything of it at the time – they were a power team, so it made sense for players to want to go there , and they’re on the west coast, so the casual movie-goer at least got the idea it was California (what’s not to like?).

        But now I wonder if that would make any sense at all. I don’t know SCU history much – how many internationals have they had over the years?

        btw, your history here, especially the early 2000’s, got me thinking, and I finally realized what it was that was bugging me: I recall a game where the 99ers were holding out for a better contract, and US Soccer sent a B squad to a tournament in Australia, among them Aly Wagner, Mandy Clemens and Dani Slaton. Bevins, too, maybe? Oh wow: and Michelle French of UP. Had no idea at the time that squad was such a WCC superteam. Grubb might have been on that team, too.

        • vRm says:

          There is a freshman from Canada this year, but even north or south of the borders seems pretty rare for SCU. I honestly can’t remember any from the past five or six years.

          That’s a pretty cool bit of history. I get the feeling that people forget the WCC pretty easily, but the top of the conference does help shape some high-caliber American and Canadian players.

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