May 14, 2001

Women's Water Polo Concludes First Season at Division I

May 14, 2001

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The Santa Clara University women's water polo team recently completed its first season as a Division I team, posting a 13-19 record and placing fifth at the Western Women's Water Polo Association Championship after upsetting UC Santa Cruz. A few season highlights:

This year's schedule was the strongest in Santa Clara's three seasons, featuring 22 of 32 matches against ranked opposition. Eight of those matches were against Division I schools, 10 were against Division III schools and four were vs. collegiate club squads. The Broncos went 1-7 against DI teams, 3-7 against DIII and 3-1 vs. clubs.

After beginning the season with a 3-13 mark, the Broncos turned the corner at the Claremont Tournament in mid March, ending an eight-match losing streak and going 10-6 through the rest of the season. During that run, the Broncos only lost to ranked competition and finished fourth at the Claremont Tournament, second at the Pioneer Tournament and upset UC Santa Cruz for fifth place at the Western Women's Water Polo Tournament to close the season.

Freshman Kelly Morrison's triple-overtime sudden-death goal provided Santa Clara with a 15-14 victory over Cal Poly at the Leavey Pool as part of the Pioneer Tournament on April 8. Hosted by CS Hayward, the Broncos moved over to the Hayward Pool and fell in the championship game to UC Santa Cruz by a 7-4 score. The second place finish is the highest for the Broncos in a tournament this season. The Mustangs were the No. 1-ranked team in the country at the time, as well as that level's defending national champion. The Broncos have faced Cal Poly on six other occasions, with each contest going into sudden-death overtime. To come out on top at the Pioneer Tournament was a Bronco program first.

Facing a team for the second time in a season seemed to bring out the best of the Broncos in 2001. During the first half of season play, SCU lost to Claremont 11-7, but fought a tough 5-4 loss in the rematch. The Broncos were shut out in the first meeting at LMU, but posted six goals on the NCAA Final Four team the second time around. A third example was against Redlands when Santa Clara lost 5-1 in the beginning of March. The team rebounded two weeks later for the program's first win over Redlands---then ranked No. 1 among Division III schools--an 11-10 victory.

A rivalry seems to be developing between Santa Clara and UC Santa Cruz. Although the Banana Slugs took this season's series 4-2, the Broncos won when it counted, upsetting UCSC 6-4 for fifth place at the season-ending WWWPA Championships. The Broncos also won at the Slugs' own tournament, a 14-1 victory in February.

Senior first team All-WWPA two-meter player Kim Yost led the team in scoring this season, notching 56 goals. One of the best defenders on the team, Yost added an uncanny ability to score from the outside. She is one of two players to be with the program since its inception as a club team during her freshman campaign. She came back from shoulder surgery during her senior year to be named a Division III All-American.

Senior utility Liz Schuricht joins Kim Yost as the only players to be a part of the SCU women's water polo program since its inception as a club team in 1998. Schuricht finished fourth on the team this season in goals, with 18, and was one of the toughest defensive presence in the pool for the Broncos.

Senior goalkeeper Sarah Peterson's first season in the net produced 10 of the Broncos' 13 wins this season. A fierce competitor during a prep career in swimming, basketball and softball, Peterson decided to give water polo a try despite never having played the sport before. She earned a starting position early in the season and learned the game as head coach Steve Hanson related it to basketball for her educational benefit. Hanson said it took a while for Peterson to get comfortable in the goal, but was very open-minded and was able to apply recently practiced drills into game situations. "Her best game was her last game," Hanson said. In 723 minutes, Peterson recorded 116 saves and allowed 171 goals for a 6.72 goals-against average. Along with eight steals, she faced 266 shots and went 10-17 on the season.

Two-meter specialist Becky Hong concluded a stellar sophomore campaign. A field leader for the Broncos, she was considered the best outside shooter and finished with 24 goals, second on the team.

Head coach Steve Hanson is 39-64 in the last two seasons. He started the program in 1996 as a club team for one season. The team spent the last two years as a Division III team before reaching DI status this season. He took the Broncos to a fifth place finish at the 2000 Division III National Championships and has coached one All-American in senior Kim Yost. Hanson is also the coach of SCU's men's water polo program.