Sept. 29, 2005
Santa Clara, Calif. - In all of Keith Wilbur's four years as the head coach of the Santa Clara men's water polo team, he has never beaten a Top-10 program. Until today.
This afternoon, his squad held on to take out the University of Pacific, ranked No. 10 in the country, 9-8 in one of the biggest victories in school history. In an intense and fast-paced contest, freshman Jack Wall scored with only three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Broncos, now 7-5 on the year.
"It's been the biggest win the program has had since I've been at Santa Clara," said Wilbur. "I also have a lot of respect for the UOP coach for playing us in our pool."
The first quarter was dominated by good defense, as both teams only managed to score one goal each. Pacific came back in the second seven-minute period with a calculated plan to overcome the Santa Clara defense. An aggressive counterattack by the Tigers accounted for four goals in the second quarter and a 5-2 lead heading into halftime.
Once the teams switched sides, sophomore Chris Parolin began the Bronco rally by drawing a penalty shot, in which sophomore Charlie Moore was able to convert to close the gap. Although Pacific would score minutes later, two more goals by Santa Clara would bring them to within one goal of the visitors. With just minutes remaining in the third period, SCU scored again to tie the match up at 6-6. Stingy defense by junior goalkeeper Michael Petersen kept the UOP offense off balance, denying almost every shot he faced.
With only 1:35 left in the final period, Pacific was leading Santa Clara 8-7 when Wall tied the contest on a breakaway play. The Tigers would be rejected once again by Petersen on the ensuing possession, and Wilbur called a timeout with 23 seconds left to set up his offense. With three ticks left on the clock, the ball ended up in Wall's hands again and he rifled a shot from six meters out and sealed the victory for the Broncos.
"He's a special player," said Wilbur about Wall. "Even though he's a freshman, I'm not afraid to put him in tight situations like today. He really came through for the team."
For the match, Wall ended with four goals and three steals. Moore added two goals and two assists, while Parolin, seniors Grant Allison and Jon Greco, and junior Whit Gilfillan all contributed a goal in the winning cause. Parolin had a great all-around game, providing two assists, two steals and drawing the penalty shot that started Santa Clara's comeback in the third quarter. Petersen had a fantastic game in the cage, finishing with 16 blocks and Wilbur also noted the excellent defensive efforts of junior Kevin Starry and sophomore Tom Kelly, as the duo shut down Pacific's top offensive threats.
"It was such a team effort. Our guys played four solid quarters and they played really well down the stretch," said Wilbur. "Even though it was a close match throughout, the team really stepped up their level of play to pull out the victory."
As great as his team performed this afternoon, Wilbur also acknowledged that playing at the Leavey Center pool was a huge advantage for SCU, especially since a loud home crowd was rooting for the Broncos at every juncture of the match.
"It was awesome to see all the fans witness the win," said Wilbur. "The home crowd was great and I just wanted to thank all of them for coming out and supporting our guys."
Added athletic director Dan Coonan: "It was wonderful to see all the Ruff Riders [Santa Clara's student spirit organization] out there, cheering for men's water polo. We've seen a resurgence in school spirit the past few years and the support is transcending to all the Santa Clara athletic teams."