Santa Clara's silent assassin

August, 30, 2008
08/30/08
2:10
PM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- No. 21 Santa Clara 2, No. 11 West Virginia 1

Goals: Megan Mischler, West Virginia (37th minute); Kendra Perry, Santa Clara (51st minute); Perry (112th minute)

With one week of political pontificating down and one to go, it was nice to spend a couple of hours watching actions speak louder than words on the soccer field.

Not that Santa Clara's Kiki Bosio had much choice in the matter.

"She's such a good player," coach Jerry Smith said of his Hermann Trophy candidate who was at less than full strength against West Virginia on Friday. "She's got strep throat; she's been on penicillin since yesterday. We took her out of today's game more than we normally take her out of a game. … Honestly, I kind of pushed her a little harder, but it's kind of hard as a coach when your stud is on the bench and you know she can play but she's not 100 percent. But I thought she went in there and played really well."

Talking to Bosio earlier in the day for an upcoming feature, she sounded like someone struggling to finish sentences let alone someone a few hours away from finishing runs. But even as Santa Clara sophomore Kendra Perry finished both of her team's goals, including one from a few steps beyond the far post on a cross from Anessa Patton in the second overtime period, no player was more noticeable -- or was as conspicuous in her absence -- as the suddenly sandpaper-voiced standout.

"Not only is she good on the ball technically, but she's also fast and physical," West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. "You've got so many different dimensions that she can beat you with, and that gets difficult. She's a tough player."

With West Virginia defender Greer Barnes, herself on the Hermann watch list, busy marking Bosio for much of the opening 25 minutes, the two teams played to a standstill. But once Bosio left the field for a break, Barnes found the freedom she's adept at exploiting and combined with midfielder Carolyn Blank to ignite West Virginia's attack. Frustrated by his opponent's mounting dominance in the midfield, Smith then shifted Bosio from her familiar spot up top to an attacking midfield position in the second half. The internal homing device that seems to draw her toward the 18-yard box still worked just fine -- it was her dribbling run early in the second half that set up the free-kick rebound that Perry put home for the tying goal -- but she also disrupted the Mountaineers' control in the middle third.

Without injured stars Amanda Poach and Jordan Angeli for the second year in a row, the Broncos don't have as much firepower as the program usually fields. To that end, before the first overtime period, Smith said he reminded the team about the United States women's soccer team's success in overcoming injuries to several key players en route to gold in the Olympics. And Perry's two opportunistic goals -- the first of her college career -- for a team that won despite finishing with a slight deficit in the overall run of play epitomized that collective effort.

As did a point-less but far from pointless performance from its ailing star that spoke volumes, even if she couldn't.

Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

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