Santa Clara, Calif.- Looking to build off of its big WWPA win over Sonoma St. a week ago, the Santa Clara women's water polo team split two games on March 17 at the Sullivan Aquatic Center against non-conference opponents Harvard and Occidental. After final exams this week on the Mission campus, Santa Clara (11-11 overall; 5-2 WWPA) will now turn its attention to one game this weekend at cross-town rival No. 10 San Jose State.
In the first game of the day against Harvard, the Broncos had an opportunity to tie the game late but a last second shot was turned away sealed the win for the Crimson. Against Occidental, the Broncos found themselves leading 5-2 at the halftime break before outscoring the Tigers 9-1 in the second half en route to a 14-3 win over their SCIAC opponent.
"Harvard is a good team and I don't think we identified their strengths quickly enough to adjust our defense accordingly," said Bronco head coach Keith Wilbur. "After that morning game, we wanted to come back and put together a better all-around effort. We really focused on playing good all-around defense and pushing our counter attack and picking up the tempo of the game, which I think we did. When we do those things well, I think everything really comes together."
Defense was the key from the weekend for Santa Clara, limiting Occidental to just three goals in the second game. Statistically, Claire Eadington (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) led the Broncos with seven steals on the weekend. However, Wilbur was quick to point out the outstanding defense play of a number of student-athletes.
"I thought our defenders did a really good job," said Wilbur. "Laura Burtness did a great job at two-meter defense in both games and Elle Surber matched up with one of Harvard's better players and did a nice job of shutting her down. Jamie Swartz is another player who I thought did a really good job defensively and has done so all season against a lot of tough opponents."
Next up for Santa Clara will be a game at San Jose St. on Saturday, March 23rd at 12 pm. It will be their last game away from the Sullivan Aquatic Center this season. With no more official WWPA league games remaining on the schedule for Santa Clara, Coach Wilbur has turned the team's focus to improving each and every game over the course of the next month.
"Now that we know how we did in conference our focus is to just build for the next month and a half for our conference championships," said Wilbur. "It's nice to not have that pressure of big conference games because we know what our seed is going to be. We just want to build to play the best possible water polo that we can at WWPA's."
Individually, the Broncos have five players over the 20-goal plateau this season, already one more than last season. Freshman Julia Peters (San Jose, Calif.) continues to pace the Broncos with 31 goals while freshman teammate Elizabeth Anderson (Palo Alto, Calif.) sits second on the team with 24 goals. With seven steals this past weekend, Eadington now leads SCU defensively with 27 steals on the year. Burtness has recorded the most field blocks with eight.
- After this weekend, the Broncos will play the rest of their games at home in the Sullivan Aquatic Center. The Broncos have fared extremely well at home this season, posting a 5-2 record.
- Three of the top five goal scorers for Santa Clara are freshmen this season while the 2016 class has combined 41% (84 of 206) of the Broncos goals this season.
- In just 21 games this season, sophomore Kaitlin Murphy (Carlsbad, Calif.) has equaled her career high in earned ejections from last season (33).
- The Broncos have the last two WWPA Newcomer of the Year award winners on their squad. (Claire Eadington 2011, Ashleigh Bandimere 2012).