February 1, 2006

Making An Impact In The Pool

Feb. 1, 2006

By Erin Hussey
Contributing Writer, Bronco Sports

At 5'1'', 190 pounds, Jack Wall felt he was just too small to play football so when he entered his sophomore year in high school he quit football and switched to the sport he simply enjoyed playing with his buddies for fun: water polo.

"I just wasn't big enough to play (football) and in water polo height and how big you are doesn't really make a difference as long as you have other skills," Wall said. "I was really quick and could anticipate really well."

Little did Wall know that within three years he would develop into the offensive threat for Santa Clara University, become one of the top collegiate freshman water polo players in the country, and even try-out for the US National team. The biggest question is not how did Wall become so good so quickly, but why is he playing at SCU, a somewhat unknown name in the world of water polo giants such as University of Southern California, Stanford, and University of California at Berkley.

"I love the game," Wall said. "I love it to death; that's why I play, but it doesn't mean more to me than a great education and friends."

Having strong team chemistry is one of head coach Keith Wilbur's philosophies for success; it is one of the main reasons Jack decided on SCU.

"When I came on my recruiting trip, I really liked the team; they were great guys and they treated me really well," Wall said. "Some of the other places I visited didn't get along as well and didn't have such great guys. I love the guys on our team now and I see them as being my good buds for life."

Senior captain Austin Brizgys knew Wall was a great fit for the team the first time they met.

"The first time we met him he was loud and energetic," Brizgys said. "You're not intimated by him and he's not intimidated by us so he became an equal right away."

Had the team dynamic not been as strong and unselfish, Jack's position as the new go-to-man might not have caused more harm than good. But the Broncos are a unique squad that honors camaraderie rather than individual glory.

"Our team is like twenty-four best friends," Brizgys said. "So it's like having your best friend be the star of the team. We just want to win games, so if Jack Wall can do that for us, then by all means."

And indeed Wall has, including one of the most memorable games in Bronco water polo history against the No. 10 University of the Pacific. It was the first time in Coach Wilbur's four-year tenure to beat a top ten ranked team. With only three seconds left in the game Wall scored and won the game 9-8.

"When we saw Jack Wall get the ball, I think everyone knew he was going to score," Brizgys remembered. "He's just that kind of player, he's so calm, and everyone knew he was going to put it away. It was pretty awesome."

But it's not always the final score that makes Wall proud to be a Bronco. "Even though we aren't as good as the better teams, the fact that we never give up and give it right back to them gives us a presence and let's them know they can't just trample all over us," Wall said.

After a phenomenal freshman season as well as trying out for the US National team, Wall knows there will be pressure to improve.

"Whatever you think is your limit you can always exceed past that, so I'd say I have a long ways to go," Wall said. "I'd like to think I could do that (play for the National team by his senior year), but it's going to take a lot of time and effort."

Brizgys is confident that his younger teammate will make the National team at some point and is happy the bonds Wall has made with the Broncos will help keep him at Santa Clara for the next three years.