April 30, 2011

Bronco Water Polo Drops Close Game in WWPA Semis

WWPA Tournament Central
Santa Clara-UC San Diego Scoresheet
SCU Water Polo Highlight Video

HAYWARD, Calif. - Tied at six entering the fourth quarter, third-seeded Santa Clara saw its hopes of reaching the title game of the WWPA Championships end when second-seeded UC San Diego scored back-to-back goals top open the fourth and escape with a 9-7 win Saturday at Chabot College in Hayward. 

Santa Clara (14-19; 10-6 WWPA) and UC San Diego (16-18, 9-1 WWPA) battled down to the wire in each of their two meetings during the regular season, and Saturday's tournament semifinal was no different.

The Broncos used first-quarter goals from Caitlin Espe, Marina Allen (pictured) and Taylor Harkins to lead 3-2 early on. UCSD responded by scoring twice in the second quarter to hold a slim, one-goal advantage by halftime 4-3.

"We came out focused and playing hard," said Santa Clara head coach Keith Wilbur. "I am proud of the way we played. (UCSD) is a top team in our conference and we knew going into the game it was going to be close. It came down to execution at the end, and credit them, they came out on top."

After Kirsten Bates and Sarah Lizotte extended the Triton's lead to 6-4, Santa Clara closed out the third quarter with a pair of goals from WWPA Newcomer of the Year Claire Eadington (the first-ever Bronco rookie to earn that honor).

Eadington led Santa Clara Saturday with three goals while senior Whitney Allen sparked a number of offensive opportunities, drawing three kick outs and a five-meter penalty shot.

Bates finished the day with four goals for UCSD, allowing the Tritons to advance to the WWPA title game for the second straight year. They will again face top-seed LMU for the conference crown.

Santa Clara will play the WWPA's third-place game at 12 noon Sunday against fifth-seed and tournament host Cal State East Bay.