April 25, 2009
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - In their second straight come from behind game, the No. 3 seed Santa Clara women's water polo team defeated No. 2 seed CS Bakersfield 10-9 in the WWPA Championship semifinals to advance to the championship game for the first time in school history. Behind the offensive prowess of Jenny Knutson, who scored a team-high four goals, the Broncos will take on No. 1 seed Loyola Marymount in the championship.
The WWPA Championship will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 24, at Santa Clara's own Sullivan Aquatic Center. The Broncos, who will take on No. 1 seed LMU, look to continue their historic run as they will play for the conference title for the first time in school history. This is also the first time that the Mission Campus has hosted the WWPA tournament. SCU is also one step closer to earning their first ever NCAA Championship bid, as tomorrow's winner will earn an automatic bid to the National Championship Elite Eight. To keep updated with all tournament action log onto the tournament central page: http://www.santaclarabroncos.com/sports/w-wpolo/spec-rel/09-sacl-wwpolo-championships.html.
The first 200 Santa Clara students, with valid ID, will be sponsored by the Santa Clara Athletics Department and the Water Polo parents and admitted for free. Come out and support your Bronco women's water polo team.
In a fast paced and very physical contest, SCU managed to gain control of the game in the final period of play after trailing the Roadrunners of Bakersfield through the first three quarters. CSUB came out of the gate strong and took an immediate 3-0 advantage. Avoiding being shutout in the first, the Broncos scored a lone goal from Knutson with 44 seconds left, only for Bakersfield to respond with a fourth goal with less than 10 seconds left.
Down 4-1 going into the second, Knutson put Santa Clara on the board for the second time to slowly erode CSUB's point advantage. However, an unrelenting Roadrunner team extended their lead to three again with a little over a minute remaining in the second, sending the Broncos into halftime down 5-2.
After intermission, SCU saw their hopes of going to their first championship game slowly dwindle away. With an energized mentality, Santa Clara went on a 3-0 run, with goals from Kendal Hildebrand, Allie Lamb and Amy Lamb, to tie the game at five-all. Despite the three goal rally, the Roadrunners tacked on two goals in the final two-and-a-half minutes of play in the third, to regain their lead and send the Broncos into the final period of play down 8-6.
With the chance of winning still in sight SCU headed into the fourth quarter. Behind a cheering home crowd, Santa Clara's Claire Linney scored to bring the game to within one. Less than a minute later Hildebrand slammed in SCU's eight-all tying goal. Relentless, Bakersfield got on the board 21 seconds later. This would be the final goal for the fifteenth ranked Roadrunners, as Linney tied the game for the second time with 3:41 left in the game. Avoiding sending the game into overtime, Knutson sent in the game-winning goal with 1:11 left on the clock. The junior driver took over quarterbacking the SCU offense, while senior Am. Lamb and sophomore Taylor Harkins were limited in the game due to tight Bakersfield coverage.
Aside from having a strong offensive showing from the entire lineup, the Bronco defense played outstanding. In what could have been a momentum and spirit crushing first quarter, SCU maintained the maturity and composure to keep their heads in the game for the final three periods of play. Goalie Wren White had a standout effort, posting 13 blocks on 26 shots from Bakersfield. The sophomore from Los Gatos, Calif. orchestrated the Santa Clara defense to help lead SCU to the championship game.
"We are extremely excited to be going to our first conference championship and to be playing at home," said head coach Keith Wilbur. "We have pulled out two come from behind victories this weekend and I think that if we stay focused and composed anything is possible."