By, John Nash
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's water polo team will begin postseason play this weekend in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) conference tournament at Chabot Community College. Nine teams will converge on the East Bay in search of an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament held in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Santa Clara (13-18 overall, 10-6 WWPA) has earned the three seed, and will open up against sixth-seeded Sonoma State (8-26, 3-9 WWPA) on Friday, Apr. 26 at 12 noon. For a complete bracket visit the WWPA's tournament central.
"Our goal during the regular season was to play well in conference and earn a high seed for WWPA's," said head coach Keith Wilbur. "A three-seed accomplished that goal, and it demonstrates that we are capable of competing with the top teams in our conference."
The Broncos have already faced Sonoma St. twice this season, defeating the Seawolves 7-5 on Feb. 13 at the Triton Invitational in San Diego and winning 12-8 on Mar. 28 at Sonoma St. A victory would likely match the Broncos up with No. 2 UC San Diego, who plays No. 7 Cal State Bakersfield. The Broncos fell twice to the Tritons, including a double-overtime thriller at the Sullivan Aquatic Center two weeks ago.
"Sonoma State is a very well coached team, and we will need to execute in all phases of the game against them," said Wilbur. "I think we can set the tone by playing good defense, so that is something that we always emphasize. I also think converting power play opportunities will be a very important part of the game Friday."
A big part of earning those power play opportunities is Whitney Allen, as she drew three ejections in last Saturday's game against UC Davis. Allen now has totaled 45 on the season, second on the team. She has also tallied 32 steals on the season, as well as scoring 10 goals and shooting a blistering 52.6 percent.
"Whitney is a relentless counter-attacker and driver. Her energy going up and down the pool on counters and also creating motion on our half court offense creates lots of good scoring chances for our team," said Wilbur. "A lot of what Whitney creates does not show up in the stat book, but the whole team knows how important she is. She is definitely a key player on our team that makes us go."