Shawn Percell's reward for being patient was a lead role in Santa Clara's march to the NCAA men's soccer championship game.
Percell has rebounded from a relatively slow start this season with four goals in the NCAA tournament, including both scores in a four-overtime, 2-1 victory over Connecticut in Friday's semifinals.
Percell's key scores led the Broncos into Sunday's national title game against defending champion Indiana. The Hoosiers also needed four overtimes to win their semifinal, 3-2 over UCLA on Friday night.
For Percell, the NCAA tournament has been a pleasant turnaround after a difficult regular season. He had high hopes for 1999 after a junior season in which he was second on the team with 15 points, but coming into the 1999 NCAA tournament, he had just three goals.
"When you put extra pressure on yourself, you don't perform well and it makes you tighter," said Percell, a senior forward. "So I just told myself to keep staying positive and keep being patient."
The Broncos (16-3-3) are hardly strangers to the NCAA title game. Santa Clara shared the national title with Virginia in 1989 and lost to the Cavaliers in the 1991 final on penalty kicks.
The Broncos lost to eventual 1997 champion UCLA in that year's semifinals, and they came within one victory of making it to the final last year. The team that denied Santa Clara a shot at the crown? Indiana, which rolled to a 4-0 victory in the semifinals and then defeated Stanford, 3-1, for the championship.
"They handed it to us pretty good," said Santa Clara senior midfielder Adam Eyre. "We're excited to show the country what we can do."
What the Broncos can do is win close games. Friday's semifinal marked the third time in four NCAA tournament matches that Santa Clara survived an overtime contest.
The Santa Clara-Connecticut game was the longest semifinal in tournament history, a match that lasted 138 minutes 50 seconds. But a few hours later, the record fell. Indiana (20-3) needed 141:24 to secure its spot in the final.