SCU Women's Water Polo Initiates Spring Practice; Will Host Season-Opener Jan. 20!

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Santa Clara University women's water polo team opened practice today in preparation for the 2012 campaign and their season-opener, which will be played on Friday, January 20 against UC Santa Barbara at 3:30 p.m. The Broncos are receiving votes in the 2012 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Preseason Top 20.

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The team came back a few days early to get a head start on training, and they actually requested this, which I think is great," said Santa Clara head water polo coach Keith Wilbur, whose women's team has averaged nearly 20 wins per season since he took over the program in 2002.

"The first game is earlier than usual this year, and X's and O's will be the hardest thing to fully cover between now and then," says Wilbur. "We will focus on getting in good shape and getting the basics down for that first game. As the season progresses, we will be able work more on different offensive and defensive sets."

The Broncos capped off the 2011 season with a 10-6 league record in Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) play and placed third at the championship tournament.

Returning for 2012 is an experienced and talented senior class of Laura Espinosa (Mountain View, Calif./Mountain View HS), Marina Allen (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley HS) and Sarah Safir (Los Gatos, Calif./Los Gatos HS), pictured right. The offense is centered around Espinosa, who established a new SCU single-season earned ejections record of 76 as the primary two-meter player last season. Allen is an explosive driver with the ability to score from the outside, while Safir is a team-leader who defends well at two-meters.

Wilbur is also excited about some of the young players on the 2012 roster. Sophomore Claire Eadington (Corona Del Mar, Calif./Corona Del Mar HS) was named the 2011 WWPA Freshman of the Year last spring – the first-ever Bronco player to earn that honor. Eadington scored 46 goals and had 40 assists in 34 games.

The incoming recruiting class includes nine new players for the upcoming season. Julia Peters (San Jose, Calif./Presentation HS) was The 2011 San Jose Mercury News 'Women's Water Polo Player of the Year' and has experience playing with the US Junior National Team.

"I think this is a team that is going to work hard, compete, and have fun," said Wilbur. "We have a good mixture of youth and experience, and it will be fun to see this group mesh and develop over the course of the season."

The Broncos will practice twice daily over the next few days, before settling in to afternoon practices at SCU's Sullivan Aquatic Center, which will complement the team's conditioning and training program.

Santa Clara could face as many as 11 top 20 teams this spring, beginning with the season-opener at home against UC Santa Barbara on Friday, January 20. The Broncos will play four ranked teams in a two-week span to start the year: No. 2 Cal (Jan. 21), No. 16 UC Davis (Jan. 22), No. 8 Arizona State (Jan. 28) and No. 10 Michigan (Feb. 3).

For the complete 2012 schedule click here.