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Gonzaga University Athletics

Gonzaga women’s soccer earns first win against Santa Clara in 16 years

By Samantha DiMaio The Spokesman-Review

History may not have been on the side of the Gonzaga women’s soccer team Sunday, but patience certainly was.

Enduring the nerves of playing in front of a nationally televised audience and making the most of fewer opportunities, the Bulldogs settled in after a chaotic start to edge No. 19 Santa Clara 1-0 at Luger Field, GU’s first win over the Broncos since 2007.

The victory – propelled by Chelsea Le’s penalty kick in the 40th minute – lifted the Zags (12-3-1, 5-1 WCC) into a first-place tie with Pepperdine with two conference matches remaining. Santa Clara, which has only lost twice to Gonzaga in 30 matches, dropped to 11-4-2, 4-2.

“We actually came out playing really nervous,” Gonzaga coach Chris Watkins said. “The moment was a little too big for us – it was on (ESPNU) and it’s senior night, too … so it took us a long time to settle in.”

While the match started sloppily and featured multiple turnovers for both teams, Gonzaga players dismissed the notion that playing on national TV added extra pressure to an already important match.

“Honestly you can’t think about that too much,” Zags goalkeeper Lauren Towne said. “You just have to go out and play like you’d be playing when you were 5 years old. It’s the same environment even though we’re on TV. It’s just cool because our relatives from near and far can watch.”

What they saw was a GU defense that was unrelenting. Despite being outshot 19-8 and 7-5 in shots on goal, the Bulldogs held tough until Le, a Spokane native, placed her game-winning shot perfectly off the inside of the left post on a penalty kick drawn by Katelyn Rigg.

“I thought she was our best player today,” Watkins said of Le. “We just weren’t settled. She was really our only player who settled.”

“I’m just really happy we got the win,” Le said. “That was all that was in my head, I just wanted to come out and do whatever it took to help us win.”

After Le’s breakthrough goal – her second this season – it was all Towne and the GU defense. The junior goalkeeper finished with six saves as the Zags earned their seventh shutout of the season.

“I know that my actions and what I say dictates a lot of the energy,” Towne said. “So if the energy is positive and good, it really fuels our team and that’s all I try to do.”

While recognizing the significance of Sunday’s win, Watkins says his team still has plenty of work to do.

GU faces Loyola Marymount at Luger Field on Wednesday before closing out the regular season at Pepperdine on Saturday, with WCC title and NCAA Tournament hopes on the line.

“The reality is, and I just told the team, it’s three points,” said Watkins, whose Zags managed their sixth straight season with five conference wins. “It’s not four, it’s not zero. We have two more games, six more points available. I’m too old to get excited about anything with two games left.”