Friday’s matinee matchup against Branham wasn’t the prettiest of performances by Santa Clara, but it was enough to hold onto a 3-2 victory. Before the game even began, this writer noticed it was a Bruins-Bruins matchup. Matching mascots made for avoiding redundancies rather difficult, so this recap might not be the prettiest of performances either.
The Santa Clara Bruins did earn a lion’s share of the possession in the contest against the Branham Bruins and they probably should have put the game away by halftime. However, after the first 40 minutes the two teams were deadlocked at 1-1. Santa Clara Head Coach Brad Comstock agreed that it was disappointing not to go into the half with a lead.
“Yes, very frustrating, we had really good opportunities in the first half,” confirmed the head coach. “For some reason they weren’t going in.”
Santa Clara took a 1-0 lead on a rocket shot from a good 25-yards out by senior striker Ellie Mujushi. The 6’0” forward also plays as an attacking midfielder at times, but is Santa Clara’s go-to scorer at either position. Mujushi would again break the tie in the second-half to put Santa Clara up 2-1.
“Since freshman year she has gotten so good,” commented senior midfielder Gabriella Medina on Mujushi. “She has definitely gotten use to her size,.That kid can shoot like crazy, it’s awesome. I love watching her run and shoot.”
In the first half Mujushi helped create a number of good looks. She got part of her foot/leg on a cross into the box via a corner kick, but wasn’t able to strike it perfectly. If she had hit it cleanly the Bruins would have certainly been up 2-0. Mujushi also set up midfielder Katie Bonvicino with a good chance, but Bonvicino got underneath the shot and it sailed up over the crossbar. Additionally, Medina had a decent volley effort from distance that went just a touch too high. The Bruins are certainly glad to have Medina back on the field after she suffered an ankle injury earlier in the month against Bullard.
“I’m feeling a lot better now,” commented Medina on the ankle. “It was really sore, really swollen for awhile, it’s still kind of sore, but I’m just going to play through it, it’s my senior year.”
To go along with Medina, Mujushi and Bonvicino, goalkeeper Samantha Coelho and sweeper/center back Haley Levene are also senior starters for Santa Clara. The veteran group looks to have a lot of upside. Anytime things break down for Santa Clara, Levene is there to settle things down as the leader of the defense.
“Haley is a helluva player,” remarked coach Comstock. “She’s been with me for four years, four years as a starter at center back. She is the key.”
“She’s amazing. I love playing with her, she’s so solid in the back,” added Medina on Levene. “Her and I since freshman year have played on the same side and I can count on her at any time. She’s a solid center back.”
For the most part Levene didn’t have to do too much cleanup work in her sweeper role as Santa Clara possessed the ball for a good portion of the contest. That said, after sophomore Nicole Nunes added an insurance goal midway through the second half, Santa Clara did sit back allowing Branham to get their best bit of possession.
With two minutes remaining Branham managed to break through the Santa Clara defense for a clean look where Coelho really had no chance to make the save. While Branham wouldn’t be able to find a third goal before time expired, the outcome was certainly closer than it should have been.
“There are a couple of girls who we expect to finish [more often],” commented coach Comstock. “Nicole, a great finisher, but wants to be [right] front of the goal when she does. You saw her score here in the second half on a great through ball and a great finish. She should be able to do that all the time. When Ellie crosses it, she has got to be there. She wants to make the far post run instead of the near post. If she makes the near post run, she has three goals today. She’s young, so she’ll learn that and when she does figure that out, she will be a very big scorer for us.”