By: Jessica Shusko '15
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A number of former Bronco's will be returning to campus this weekend as the men's water polo team hosts their annual alumni game on Sat., Oct. 19 at the Sullivan Aquatic Center at 12 pm. Former players from last year, to even over 10 years ago, are expected to return this weekend for the game. It is something that both the alumni and the current players look forward to.
"The alumni game is one of my favorite days of the year," said Bronco head coach Keith Wilbur. "I'm in my 12th year of coaching at Santa Clara, and I truly look forward to seeing all the alumni come back and catching up with them, seeing what is new in their lives, sharing stories from when they played here and seeing them interact with the current players on the team. Sometimes it is easy to get wrapped up in the intensity of the competition season, and the alumni game is a chance to step back, see the bigger picture and enjoy reconnecting with all the players that have made our program what it is."
Austin Brizgys '06 is one of the former players coming back this year. Brizgys joined the water polo program as a freshman in 2002, Wilbur's first year as head coach for Santa Clara. In his senior year, Brizgys served as team captain. After graduating, Brizgys has continued to support the men's water polo program and looks forward to returning to the Mission campus for the alumni game every year.
"The best part about the alumni game is coming back. The sport, team, coach and friends that were such a huge part of my collegiate life - and showing support and reconnecting," said Brizgys. "I owe so much to my time as a SCU water polo player under Keith Wilbur, and it is great to see the new group of players coming up through the same program, learning a ton about life, sport and team building. Seeing Keith each year is also a perk - he was instrumental in my college - and post college - life, and continues to be a role model for me. I was lucky to play for him, and I am lucky to remain friends with such a solid character."
Another returner includes recent graduate John Nash '13. Nash was the starting goalie for the Broncos last year and tallied 178 blocks for the season. Even though this will be his first time playing as an alum, Nash seems pretty confident in his alumni team this year.
"No real strategy needed," said Nash. "We are the more experienced squad, have old man strength and are easily able to persuade the referee. That is a lethal combination."
Along with the unconventional tactics, former Bronco Marcus Akerland '12 and Nash have been preparing for this match up and are determined to leave the pool with the win.
"Nash and I have been training tirelessly for the past couple weeks while engaging in a fiery back and forth with Jimmy Moore, Patrick Weiss and Theo Nasser about the upcoming game," explained Akerland. "Their trash talk has only gotten us more riled up and we use that as motivation everyday during our training. If they think that they are in for an easy contest against a bunch of washed up yuppies, they've got another thing coming. The Salty Vets are taking this one."
Both the current Broncos and the alumni have pretty strong teams going into this game. With the included trash talk and rivalry between the two squads, this is sure to be an exciting game to watch.
After the fun of the alumni game is over, the Broncos will play their first home game of the season on Sunday against No. 1 UCLA at 12 pm and West Valley at 4 pm. Be sure to come out and support your Broncos this weekend!