January 7, 2013

Nationally-Ranked Throughout 2012 Regular Season, SCU Men’s Water Polo Now Looks Ahead to 2013

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Ranked No. 15 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) top 20 to begin its 2012 campaign, the Santa Clara University men's water polo team went on to have four players honored by the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA), played 18 games against other top 20 programs, and celebrated the careers of senior goalkeeper John Nash (Orinda, Calif./Miramonte HS) and senior driver C.J. D'Arienzo (Santa Clara, Calif./Archbishop Mitty HS).

Santa Clara maintained a top 20 ranking throughout the regular season, using its two-meter hole-sets to generate the bulk of its offensive production. The Bronco attack went through redshirt junior co-captain Theo Nasser (San Mateo, Calif./Aragon HS), junior Tucker Carlson (Stockton, Calif./St. Mary's HS) and true freshman Evan Chang (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola HS).

Carlson led the Broncos in goals and earned co-WWPA Player of the Week honors following an outstanding performance in the season-opening Inland Empire Tournament held at Redlands, Calif. in early September. The Broncos got off to a 3-1 start.

Carlson (All-WWPA Honorable Mention), junior driver Jimmy Moore (All-WWPA Second Team) and freshman utility James Rude (WWPA All-Freshman Team) were recognized among the league's top players at season's end. Nasser would earn WWPA All-Tournament Team honors in November as well.

"We had really small numbers in our junior and senior classes this year," said Santa Clara Head Coach Keith Wilbur, the program's all-time winningest coach. "We had some older guys that redshirted, then some unexpected injuries, which actually provided the opportunity for younger players to gain valuable experience a little sooner than normal. The older guys who did play, did an excellent job leading this group and helping those younger guys, and the team, develop and improve as the season moved forward."

The Broncos finished the year 10-20 overall and 7-11 within the WWPA. The fact SCU maintained a national ranking despite a sub-.500 overall record is a testament to matching up with some of the nation's best teams, which included the likes of No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Cal, No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Pacific and No. 7 UC Santa Barbara.

"Due to our conference and our location, we are always going to see plenty of good competition," said Wilbur. "Some years may be tougher than others but that always gives us the opportunity to see where we stand and to improve. I thought this year's team relished in those opportunities. With the majority of our guys coming back, that bodes well for next year."

Wilbur's starting lineup in 2012 featured four underclassmen - all expected to return in 2013. The young Bronco squad narrowly missed a top-four finish in the WWPA Championships, losing to 18th-ranked UC Davis 6-5 in opening round play at Whittier College in East Los Angeles. Nash and sophomore goalkeeper Matt Pritchett (San Mateo/Junipero Serra HS) split time throughout the year, anchoring a defense that showed marked improvement leading up to, and during the Championships.

The team's young lineup provided additional speed, resulting in more goal-scoring opportunities through its counter-attacks, something SCU hopes to build on in 2013.  The Broncos will also benefit from the activation of nine redshirts next fall - six freshman, one sophomore and two upperclassmen.

"The team faced some difficult circumstances this year, but had the right attitude and a good approach," said Wilbur. "The guys who were able to play gained valuable experience and we also have some talented players who sat out coming back. I think next year's team has the potential to jump up in the standings, both within our conference and nationally."