SANTA CLARA, Calif. – After two weeks of preseason camp, the Santa Clara men's water polo team will kick off the season Saturday.
The Broncos, who play their first nine games away from home, are set to face off with San Jose State at 4 p.m. on the campus of West Valley College.
The teams met in last year's season opener with the Spartans escaping with a 10-9 win at Sullivan Aquatic Center.
The Broncos have to replace their top two goal scorers from last season, but have a number of returning players who have started or seen significant action.
"Last year, Will (Grant) and Reilley switched out at two meters, and now Reilley is stepping into that role," head coach Keith Wilbur said.
Graham McClone and Grant, who both graduated and moved on to play professionally, ranked first (58) and third (30), respectively, on the team in goals, while Carey, a southpaw, was second with 48.
"Mac Carey was an all-conference and all-freshman performer last year," Wilbur said. "He's coming back and doing well."
The Broncos also welcome back John Raineri who sat out last season, but led the team in goals, assists and was tied for first in steals in 2015.
"A big guy coming back for us is John Raineri who was All-American two years ago," Wilbur said. "He had elbow surgery and basically sat out last year. He's getting back into it and doing a good job. He's a lefty too, so it's kind of fun to see him and Mac playing together."
Hughes should be able to add some scoring punch. He started 17 of the last 18 games a season ago and tallied 14 of his 18 goals in that stretch.
Last season, Estrella played in all 27 games and posted 16 goals.
"A guy who plays a lot, but doesn't start is Dane Estrella," Wilbur said. "He and Sam play the same position and rotate in and out. One guy starts and the other comes off the bench. Dane is a really good defender and outside shooter."
Fox started in all 20 of his appearances last season, while Huebner sat out 2016, but did play in five games during 2015.
"Last year, with injuries we had one or two goalies. Keaton came back (after missing seven games) and played a lot last year. We also have Emil, a redshirt junior, who's coming back and two freshmen (Matthew Churchman, Campbell Gorlinski). They're all good goalies, and it's good to have more guys and competition at that position. We are stronger at that position and have a lot more depth."
Injuries sidelined keyed performers Raineri and Fox last season, but Santa Clara enters 2017 healthy.
"We are in shape and healthy," Wilbur said. "Just in terms of conditioning and swim sets, these guys are making harder and faster swim sets than those in the past. We're just in better shape. All 28 guys were cleared by the training staff. Every single guy is healthy. It's a great way to start of the season."