SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University battled Santa Clara University for 90 minutes Friday at Gonzaga Soccer Field, but in the end it was the Broncos who came away with a 1-0 victory to keep their West Coast Conference title hopes alive.
The lone goal came at 55:22 when Michael Gates' thru ball found Erik Hurtado open at the left top of the box. He went wide to beat a defender and then slipped around Gonzaga (4-12-2; 2-8-2) goalkeeper Ryan Caballerro for the easy shot at the open net and his team-leading sixth goal of the season.
"Our youth showed today," Gonzaga head coach Einar Thorarinsson said. "We couldn't get 90 minutes of solid soccer today. We played well but we had a couple of lapses."
Thorarinsson said the goal wasn't Caballero's fault for coming out to meet the play.
"Ryan did what he is supposed to do. We just lost the guy and with his speed we knew we had to mark him. It was a well-played ball," Thorarinsson said.
The Broncos (10-5-4, 6-4-1) had a slight 10-8 edge in shots and Gonzaga actually outshot SCU in the second half 5-4 and had the advantage in corner kicks 5-2.
The first half had plenty of scoring chances by both teams and some strong goaltending. Gonzaga, who has had a tendency to surrender the early goal, almost saw SCU get on the scoreboard early Friday. Connor Mitchell had a shot from deep on the right wing go off Caballero's hands and past the far post less than six minutes into the match.
Zach Hamer was set up with a thru ball to the top left of the 18, but he was pressured by a SCU defender and was able to get off only a soft shot that was an easy save for SCU keeper Larry Jackson in the 12th minute.
Mykell Bates had a header off a cross down close just miss the open left side of the net in the 35th minute, and four minutes later Hurtado was denied by Caballero as Hurtado dribbled deep down the right flank and launch a shot that was saved at the post.
James Matern nearly found the top shelf on a hard shot from 22 yards straightway in the waning minutes of the first half.
Alec Cutter nearly gave the Bulldogs the lead in the opening minute of the second half. He dribbled from midfield down the left wing to within 15 yards of the goal and took a shot that Jackson made a chest-high catch on.
Rather than hanging their heads, the Bulldogs seemed to be even more determined following the Bronco goal. Cutter had another point blank shot at Jackson in the 72nd minute, his shot from 15 yards on the right wing resulting in a chest-high save. Clark Phillips had a similar chance in the 78th minute as he found himself point blank with Jackson from the right top of the 6 and the ball bounced off Jackson's chest.
With Gonzaga continuing to press in the closing minutes, Clark Phillips took a long pass down the right wing and had a low shot at the post caught by Jackson.
With forward Nick Hamer sidelined for the season with a bruised foot, Cutter became the focal point for the Bulldogs on offense.
"We felt we could attack off our left side," Thorarinsson said of the game plan. "We had some chances."
With the win SCU is now tied with the University of San Diego with 19 points. Heading into Friday Saint Mary's College had 17 points, with Loyola Marymount University and the University of Portland sitting at 16. Santa Clara will be at Portland Sunday in a match that will have at-large connotations if not championship connotations for NCAA Tournament play.
Gonzaga concludes the season at home Sunday against the University of San Francisco in a noon match. USF had a night match at Portland Friday.