San Jose, Calif. - The San Jose State University women's soccer team (11-4-3, 5-0-2 WAC) had its seniors lead the way to a 2-1 triumph over Western Athletic Conference rival Fresno State (6-12, 4-4 WAC) on Senior Night at Spartan Stadium on Friday, October 30.
News of a double-overtime goal and 1-0 victory by Nevada at New Mexico State a little over an hour after the jubilant finish in San Jose, meant head coach Jeff Leightman's Spartans had clinched the program's first regular-season conference title since joining the WAC in 1996.
Leightman, in just his second year in charge at San Jose State, has led an incredible turnaround that has seen the Spartans extend now to a school-record 14-game unbeaten streak (11-0-3), tied for the third-longest nationally in the NCAA Division I, after an 0-4 start to the campaign.
San Jose State's Senior Night was littered with senior greatness, as both goals and both assists were accounted for by players making their final appearance inside Spartan Stadium. Roxy Kamal and Emmy Belding notched the goals, with Katie Bonadies and Kamal providing the assists, to propel the team to its first win over the rival Bulldogs since 2005.
The crowd of 847 on hand did not have long to wait for a thrilling opener by Kamal just under four minutes into the contest. Bonadies, a fourth-year Spartan out of Los Gatos, poked a perfect through ball toward the right flank and across the midfield stripe, right onto the path of a sprinting Kamal. The fourth-year Spartan and San Jose native out of Presenatation High School took a couple of touches before noticing junior Bulldog goalkeeper Kaitlyn Revel come off her line, launching an incredible lob-shot over the preseason WAC Defensive Player of the Year from about 30 yards out.
Kamal's career-best seventh goal of the year broke a scoreless streak for her Spartans against Fresno State that had stretched back to 2005 and spanned five-plus games and just over 497 minutes of soccer.
Belding, the Spartans' leading goal-scorer and a WAC Offensive Player of the Year candidate, added a second-half tally that pushed the lead to 2-0. The second-year transfer out of Cabrillo College smacked home what proved to be her seventh career game-winner, taking a feed on the right side of the penalty area from Kamal and finding the near-side netting at 63:31. It was her 10th goal of 2009, while Kamal increased her league-best assist total to nine on the year.
The game was tightened right back up moments later when Fresno State's Callie Hancock was sent toward goal on a breakaway down the left wing via a pass by Katie Lee, cut in to her right foot, and put her hard shot past fourth-year Spartan goalkeeper Nina Butera. The goal at 65:26 cut the Spartan lead to 2-1, but that is how the game would end.
Butera, the reigning WAC Defensive Player of the Week, was rarely tested in the match otherwise, making one save. Revel stabilized and limited the Spartan scoring to just the two goals, ending her night with four saves.
San Jose State out-shot Fresno State on the night, 16-13, with Belding contributing a game-high six, two of them on target. Hancock had a team-high five efforts off the bench for the Bulldogs.
All seven San Jose State seniors, who were recognized prior to kick-off, saw action in the match. The WAC champion class includes Belding, Bonadies, Butera, Kamal, fourth-year Spartans Brittany Boehm and Hallsie Pacheco, and Angela Nuñez. Six of them started the contest, with Nuñez, a second-year member of the program who has gone through 11 knee operations, making just her third major college appearance for the final 1:29 of the first half.
In addition to its first outright conference regular-season championship, tonight's result earns San Jose State the top seed and a subsequent first-round bye at next week's WAC Tournament in Boise, Idaho. The Spartans will now take their program-high five league wins on the road, to Boise, for the regular-season finale against the Boise State Broncos on Sunday, November 1, at the Boas Soccer Complex. The Spartans can achieve the program's first undefeated WAC campaign with a win or tie against the Broncos.
Fresno State (6-12, 4-4 WAC) - 0 1 - 1
San Jose State (11-4-3, 5-0-2 WAC) - 1 1 - 2
SJSU - Roxy Kamal (7) (Katie Bonadies), 3:56
SJSU - Emmy Belding (10) (Roxy Kamal), 63:31
FS - Callie Hancock (2) (Katie Lee), 65:26
FS - 13
SJSU - 16
FS - 4 (Kaitlyn Revel-4)
SJSU - 1 (Nina Butera-1)
FS - 4
SJSU - 1
FS - 6
SJSU - 11