By, John Nash '13
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The Santa Clara University women's water polo team will host its first home game this weekend, welcoming Cal Baptist to the Sullivan Aquatic Center at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb 19. Earlier in the day, Santa Clara will travel to Cal State East Bay to play in an important conference game at 12 noon.
"The biggest advantage of playing at home is having a good crowd. It brings a lot of energy, and our players feed of that," said head coach Keith Wilbur. "It is also an advantage playing at home because we are comfortable in our surroundings."
This will be the third season the Broncos (4-6; 3-1 WWPA) have played in the Sullivan Aquatic Center, where they have compiled a 15-12 record. In the last two years, the Broncos have faced Cal Baptist twice at home. In both games, Santa Clara pulled out one-goal wins versus the Lancers.
Both opponents this weekend are receiving votes in the latest Collegiate Water Polo Association Top 20.
Cal State East Bay (4-5; 2-2 WWPA) is coming off an 11th-place finish at the UC San Diego Triton Invitational. Sophomore Claire Pierce, the 2010 Western Water Polo Association 'Newcomer of the Year,' leads the Pioneers in scoring with 26 goals. All five of Cal State East Bay's losses have come against the top 20.
Cal Baptist (4-2) enters this weekend's action on a two-game losing streak, dropping games to No. 2 USC and No. 14 Hartwick. They will travel inland Saturday morning to play No. 19 Pacific before arriving at Santa Clara.
Broncos senior goalkeeper Wren White had 33 saves over the weekend at the Triton Invitational. She came up huge versus Sonoma State, registering a season-high 13 saves in a 7-5 victory. Senior Taylor Harkins has continued her scoring ways, as she leads SCU with 16 goals.
Caitlin Espe has also been a consistent force for the Broncos, registering six goals, 13 assists, 15 steals, and 10 earned ejections. Freshman Claire Eadington has assimilated well into the Broncos starting lineup, registering 15 goals, 11 assists, 14 steals, and 10 kick outs drawn.
"One of Claire's greatest strengths is her understanding of the game," said Wilbur. "She is a very smart player, and that allows her to come in as a freshman and have good chemistry with some of the older players on our team."
The Broncos will host the "Rodeo Tournament" next Saturday, Feb 26. and Sunday, Feb. 27.