SANTA CLARA, Calif. - With the new season set to get underway this week, Santa Clara men's water polo team got ready by scrimmaging Cal and Pacific last weekend. Both opponents were ranked in the top-10 with Cal coming in at No. 3 and Pacific at No. 7. The Broncos will open the season ranked No. 15 in the country.
Santa Clara will open the season at the Inland Empire Tournament in Redlands, Calif. on Sept. 8-9 where it will take on Chapman, Whittier, No. 5 UC Santa Barbara and Redlands.
The Broncos fell 14-4 to Cal and 9-4 to Pacific, but Bronco head coach Keith Wilbur, entering his 11th season at SCU, saw positives to build on as the season gets underway.
"Both teams we scrimmaged are ranked very high so it was good competition for us," said Wilbur. "The biggest thing coming off the weekend was we played pretty well defensively. Both of our goalies, [John] Nash and [Matt] Pritchett, came up with a lot of big blocks. That was really good to see since we're new in the cage after losing four-year starter Michael Wishart. To have two guys come in and play at a high level is a good starting point for us. Against top-teams like Cal and Pacific, counterattacks are a big part of the game and I thought we did a good job minimizing those."
While the defense and goalkeeping were strong spots for the Broncos, Wilbur recognizes that the team needs work on the offensive end.
"The place we struggled most was offensively," continued Wilbur. "We need to be able to score more than four goals in a game if we want to win. I think part of the problem is fatigue. You have to have a lot of energy and emotion which we did at spots but as the game wore on we had less energy and activity on the offensive end."
The shortcomings on offense are something that Santa Clara will work on as the season progresses but as the team didn't taper for the scrimmages and continued to practice hard prior to them fatigue was not a surprise.
"We had just come off preseason so the guys are broken down," said Wilbur. "I think getting a little rested up will help and we aren't going to go as hard in practice this week as we have in the last two. Recognizing the right shot, preparing yourself to shoot the ball before it comes to you are also things we can work on. I think we can work more on our six-on-five and execute those better. Part of it is just the mentality of always working and always moving on offense so we'll keep stressing that going into next weekend."