April 25, 2006
Santa Clara, Calif. - The Santa Clara women's water polo team has good reason to celebrate. No only are the No. 16 Broncos enjoying their best season in school history with an overall mark of 23-7, but they also were awarded the third seed heading into this weekend's Western Water Polo Association Championships, held on the campus of UC San Diego. As a Top 4 seed, Santa Clara will have a first round bye and will not play its first match until Friday afternoon, taking on the winner of the Colorado State-Sonoma State contest at 3 p.m.
"We like being seeded third. Having the first-round bye will be really important because then we will be more rested going into the second-round game," stated head coach Keith Wilbur. "I do not like to think past our first game, but the path to the championship game is much better as a three seed than as a four or five seed, which is what we have been the past three years."
One of the reasons why the Broncos have been successful this season has been because of the play of their upperclassmen - providing leadership and guidance in and out of the pool. Seniors Lindsey Bacolini and Alanna Simpkins have proven to be a top one-two punch for SCU, as they both possess excellent all-around skills. Bacolini leads the entire team with 48 goals on the year, while Simpkins has provided solid numbers in all stages of the game: 24 goals, 17 assists, 12 steals, and 10 kickouts drawn. Juniors Katie Radvanyi and Andrea Evans have give Bacolini plenty of support in the scoring department, as the duo has combined to put the ball through the net on 75 occasions. Fellow junior Kristin Barnes has been solid in the cage, deflecting 150 attacks thus far in the season, and her passing has been instrumental in jumpstarting Santa Clara's lethal counterattack.
Santa Clara was able to take all three matches from Sonoma State earlier in the season. In the first meeting, the Broncos easily put away the Seawolves 14-5 at the Slugfest Invitational held in mid-February. However, Sonoma State almost returned the favor a few weeks later, taking Santa Clara to overtime on its own home pool. However, SCU's Emily Bonk saved the day for her squad, scoring a game-leading three goals including the go-ahead goal with 16 ticks left in the match to garner the 12-11 victory. In addition, Bacolini and Evans also put the ball through the net on three occasions to aid in the winning cause. The third time the two squads met was on Santa Clara's Senior Day, as Bryn Asher, Kathleen Hamm, Bacolini, and Simpkins played their final home match at the Leavey Center Pool. Evans was once again an offensive force, leading the way with four goals in a 17-8 triumph over Sonoma State. Radvanyi added three goals in the victory.
The Seawolves are 18-11 on the year and came away from the last weekend with a 7-4 victory over visiting UC Santa Cruz. Ashley Phelps is the most dangerous scorer for Sonoma State, logging in 131 goals this season, while Sasha Versage has handed out a team-leading 60 assists to go along with her 94 goals in 2006. In the cage, Kaitlyn Brownrigg and Kimberly Fortson have combined for 246 saves this season. Alicia Hansel is in her third season as the head coach of the Seawolves and has compiled an overall record of 53-44.
Santa Clara and Colorado State have met just once this season, with the Broncos coming out with a 10-6 triumph at the Slugfest Invitational. In that contest, Simpkins found the back of the net three times to pace SCU, while Claire Linney added two goals of her own. Barnes manned the cage with six blocks to keep the Rams at bay.
Colorado State currently owns an overall mark of 15-20 after knocking of Colorado College 15-4 last Saturday in Fort Collins, Colo. Lauren White is the leading goal-scorer for the Rams, notching 45 on the year, while Emily Chambers and Brittany McGinley have tossed in 19 and 17 goals of their own, respectively. Holly Stanfill is the starting goalkeeper and has accumulated 221 saves during the 2006 season. John Mattos is in his second year as the head coach of the women's water polo program at Colorado State and has tallied a 23-35 record during his tenure.
"Even though Sonoma State is the higher seed, these two split their games during the regular season. We need to be prepared for a game with either team," stated Wilbur. "Sonoma State has very good 2-meter players, so, if we play them, we need to play good team defense and help on these players. We also need to push our counter attack.
"Colorado State has good speed, so if we play them, it will be hard to score off the counter. Against them, it will be very important to run an effective half court and we need to convert a high percentage of our power plays opportunities."