SANTA CLARA, Calif. — In 2016, Santa Clara scored 10 goals and went 5-10-1, finishing last in the West Coast Conference.
But three minutes into the 2017 season, the Broncos had a 1-0 lead over the sixth-ranked Maryland men's soccer team, which lost once last season and returned the majority of its offensive weapons
It was an ominous start for Maryland's almost entirely new defense, but the team settled in and equalized in the 27th minute, eventually taking a 3-1 lead into halftime and winning 4-2.
"We knew we'd get a tough game, and we got one," coach Sasho Cirovski said. "Santa Clara is a program with a lot of pride and they put it out there tonight."
Midfielder Jake Rozhansky scored two goals and had an assist, midfielder Eryk Williamson notched a goal and an assist and forward Eric Matzelevich scored his first college goal in his first game as a Terp.
In the third minute, UCLA-transfer defender Chase Gasper lost possession deep in Maryland's territory and committed a foul trying to get back to the ball.
Williamson leapt and got a foot on the ensuing free kick, but the deflection only went as far as the top of the box, where Broncos midfielder Brandon Gillingham fired it past Terps goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair — a redshirt sophomore who didn't play last year — and into the left side of the net.
"We knew our chances were coming and when they'd come we'd punish them," St. Clair said. "We showed that we can respond."
Maryland looked the stronger team after conceding, though the Broncos nearly took a 2-0 lead after another Maryland giveaway in the backline.
The Terps equalized at the other end shortly after.
Santa Clara goalkeeper Dakota Havlick dove to punch out a cross despite no Maryland attackers in the area, and the ball slowly fell to Williamson in the middle of the box.
The junior lined up and fired a right-footed shot that kissed the bottom of the crossbar and went into the near-empty net.
"Once we scored the first," Rozhansky said, "we knew the second, third, fourth were coming."
Matzelevich entered the game as a substitute in the 37th minute. Less than a minute later, the Washington native scored. A pass from Rozhansky put Matzelevich behind the defense, and he slotted past Havlick to give Maryland a 2-1 lead.
Matzelevich helped create another score a few minutes later. After Matzelevich put the ball at Williamson's feet, Williamson dribbled into the box and left the ball for Rozhansky, who charged ahead from midfield and struck past the charging Havlick to make it 3-1.
"The whole goal was [Williamson], honestly," Rozhansky said. "I just got the final touch on it."
The second half was quiet with both teams creating occasional half-chances the defense cleaned up. The squads combined for four shots in the first 32 minutes of the second half.
In the 78th minute, Santa Clara took the fifth shot of the half and made it count, as defender Valdemar Andersen curled in a free kick, pumping up the Santa Clara crowd.
The Broncos had a couple of looks at equalizing, but Rozhansky ended any hopes of a comeback with his second goal of the game in the 88th minute.
"We had some really good moments throughout the game," Cirovski said. "We showed our depth, we showed our class and we got a good win. We'll get better from this game."