Water Polo Takes On No. 15 UC Davis Prior to Academic Finals

WWPA Weekly Release (PDF)
2012 SCU Women's Water Polo Virtual Media Guide

SANTA CLARA, Calif. –
The Santa Clara University women's water polo team travels to UC Davis on Saturday for an 11 a.m. meeting with the 15th-ranked Aggies. Following the game, the Broncos will have two full weeks to focus on academic finals (March 19 through 23) and prep for a jam-packed schedule in late March through the end of April, capped off by the Western Water Polo Association Championships in San Diego (April 27-29).

"It is tough having finals right in the middle of season, but I think the players do a great job of balancing their academics and athletics," said Santa Clara water polo head coach Keith Wilbur, who had 17 student-athletes (eight women and nine men) earn recognition on last season's WWPA All-Academic Teams.

"I don't schedule any games the weekend before finals, and we shorten practices a little bit during finals week.  My goal is to do enough to maintain our level of conditioning during finals while giving them the time they need to prepare for their exams.  This group has done very well academically, and I expect they will have another good quarter.  The nice part is that once finals are over, we have a week of Spring Break to ramp up our conditioning and really focus in on water polo."

Santa Clara (4-16; 3-5 WWPA) has rebounded from a slow start this season to play much better as of late. SCU avenged two early-season losses by beating league rivals Cal State East Bay 10-7 on Feb. 18 and Cal State Monterey Bay 10-5 on Feb. 25.

"I think our defense is more consistent, we are pushing the counter more, and our offense is starting to show signs of life," said Wilbur about his team's recent play.  "We need to maintain what we have been doing on defense and counters, and continue to improve on offense.  We are doing the work on offense, but we have to do a better job of reading what the defense is giving us and finishing our shots."

No. 15 UC Davis (6-11; 0-0 Big West) will be another tough test for a Santa Clara team that has played nine ranked opponents this season, which is more than any other WWPA school besides LMU, who has faced 10 ranked teams. Wilbur is preparing his team for an Aggie squad that is physical and known for their pressure defense.

SCU NOTES: The Broncos will try to improve on their previous outing against UC Davis, in which Santa Clara fell 13-6 opening weekend Feb. 22 ... Marina Allen scored two goals in that last meeting with the Aggies ... since being inserted into the starting lineup, true-freshman Ashleigh Bandimere has tallied two hat-tricks in six games and has scored 21 goals on the season ... a solid core of seniors continues to help lead the team this season as Marina Allen (26 goals) tops all Broncos in scoring, while Laura Espinosa (44 earned ejections) paces the team in kick outs drawn and Sarah Safir has done an admirable job guarding two-meters this season, and is third on the team with 21 steals ... junior goalkeeper Stephanie Clements (pictured) has started in all 20 games and has 120 blocks ... after playing UC Davis, the Broncos will have their first weekend off since the beginning of the year.