Vanderbilt Soccer saw the end of its remarkable NCAA Tournament run on Friday, falling to Santa Clara 3-1 in the second round. Sophomore forward Maddy Gonzalez would score two first-half goals for the Broncos, who went into halftime with a 2-1 advantage and did not relinquish it.
Santa Clara, who upset California in the first round, held the pace of the game for much of the first half. Gonzalez was all over the field, fighting for balls and creating opportunities. The first significant chance for the Broncos was a Gonzalez drive down the middle of the field in the tenth minute that lead to a shot that nailed the top of the crossbar.
She would finally capitalize in the 18th minute. After a nice give-and-go down the left sideline, Santa Clara defender Kat Uhl drove into the box and played a ball across the face of the goal to a wide open Gonzales at the PK marker. She flicked the ball into the back of the net, giving the Broncos the early lead.
Santa Clara continued to have the Commodores pinned to their own half. Vanderbilt struggled to clear in their defensive third and couldn’t move the ball down the field. The Broncos, defensively, were always there to block Vanderbilt’s passing lanes, limiting the Commodores’ time of possession.
In the attacking third, Vanderbilt impatiently forced balls forward and could not get quality chances as a result. They were also hampered by three offsides calls in the first half that killed their momentum.
Despite the limited chances, however, the Commodores would strike back. With 10:10 left in the first half, Leila Azari sent a ball into the six yard box from the right side. The ball trickled through traffic before being deflected to Madison Elwell, who redirected it slowly into the back of the net.
The celebration wouldn’t last long. Less than a minute later, Gonzalez would receive a ball with her back to the goal, spin past Vanderbilt defender Stephanie Amack, and launch a line drive into the back of the net from the top of the 18-yard box to kill Vanderbilt’s momentum and reclaim the lead.
Towards the end of the first half, both teams began to create opportunities in their attacking halves. Vanderbilt’s attack became more patient and sophisticated as they forced less balls forward. They couldn’t take advantage, however, and the Broncos would go into the half with a 2-1 lead.
The Broncos opened the second half aggressive offensively. Within the first three minutes of the second period, Maria Sanchez hit a long-range shot from past the 18-yard box into the far post side-netting to extend the Broncos’ lead to 3-1.
Santa Clara would continue to command possession for the rest of the period. The Commodores struggled to connect passes and move the ball forward. Vanderbilt did not register a shot until twenty-five minutes into the half. With ten minutes left to play, the Broncos nearly extended their lead further as Kelsey Turnbow had a 1-v-1 situation with goalkeeper Kaitlyn Fahrner, who made a great block to keep the ball out of the net.
The Broncos would go on to seal the 3-1 victory, ending Vanderbilt’s historic season. Santa Clara advances to the Sweet Sixteen and will play the winner of Wisconsin vs. No. 1 seed South Carolina.