2013 Season Photos by John Peters
Santa Clara, Calif.- The Santa Clara women's water polo team finished their 2013 campaign this past weekend by finishing third in the Western Water Polo Association Championships hosted at the Sullivan Aquatic Center. With the win over Colorado St. in the third place game, the Broncos finished 16-17 (5-2 WWPA) on the season. As Coach Wilbur pointed out, the improvement was evident in the pool.
"I thought our team had a very strong season," said Wilbur. "We went from 7th place finish in our conference last year to a 3rd place finish this season. We had a conference record of 5-2 during the regular season, and the team did a great job of playing their best in big games. In the semi-finals of our conference tournament, we played the perennial conference powerhouse in LMU. We lost the game, but it was a close game and the best game we have given LMU in the playoffs in a very long time."
The Broncos saw a six-win improvement from the 2012 season, in part due to an excellent freshman class. Julia Peters (San Jose, Calif., Presentation) was cleared to play after missing all of last season and did not disappoint, leading the team with 50 goals, 46 steals and 67 earned ejections. The 67 earned ejections set a SCU freshman record for kick outs drawn in a season. Freshmen Elizabeth Anderson (Palo Alto, Calif./ Gunn) and Elle Surber (Pleasanton, Calif,/ Amador Valley) each tallied over 30 goals while Anderson was second on the team with 56 earned ejections.
With 2:30 to play in the third place game against Colorado St. at WWPA's, Coach Wilbur had all of his seven seniors in the pool for their very last time. The group of seven, Stephanie Clements (San Carlos, Sacred Heart Prep), Kendall Preston (Mountain View, Calif./ Mountain View) Jamie Swartz (San Diego, Calif/ Scripps Ranch), Natalie Kassel (Aptos, Calif./ Aptos), Alison Norris (Saratoga Calif., Saratoga), Melissa Chao (Redwood City, Calif./ Notre Dame) and Makena Pezzuto (Crockett, Calif., St. Patrick- St. Vincent) chipped in their last contributions to SCU in the water as they closed out a 12-7 victory over the Rams. But even more importantly, Coach Wilbur pointed to his senior class as having a lasting effect on his program.
"We have seven seniors this year, and they are a special group," said Wilbur. "All of them have improved so much during their time here, and this is a testament to their hard work and dedication. Outside of the pool, it is a great class that really gets along well together. They accept each other's differences, play off each other's strengths, and they know how to work hard, be serious, and still have fun. Their chemistry carried throughout our whole team, and I really enjoyed coaching this group. I also think the team dynamic they created has helped a lot with our recruiting the past three years, and the deserve a lot of the credit for the players who have come in behind them."
The 2013 season saw plenty of movement in the Santa Clara women's water polo career leader boards. After scoring 33 during the 2013 season, Claire Eadington moved into 6th all-time in Santa Clara history with 126 goals in her Bronco career. Even more impressive, with one season still remaining to play, Eadington sits first all-time in career steals in Santa Clara history with 131. Eadington also ranks 3rd with 107 assists and 6th with 92 earned ejections.
Jamie Swartz assisted on 23 goals during her senior campaign and finishes tied for ninth with former teammate Rochelle Stowe at 49 career assists. Swartz also finishes her Bronco career third all-time in steals with 106. Kaitlin Murphy is now 7th all-time with 81 earned ejections and after only one season Julia Peters is 8th with 67 career earned ejections.
The future is bright for Santa Clara water polo. 79% of the scoring returns next season while the Broncos only lose two starters off of this years squad. June Afshar and Sydni Estrella will compete for time in the cage as senior Stephanie Clements departs with over 500 saves in her Santa Clara career. With the strong returning group and large incoming class, Coach Wilbur and Santa Clara water polo fans have plenty to be excited about.
"We are graduating a great senior class, but we also have a great group of players coming back," said Wilbur. "We also are going to have our largest recruit class next year with 10 incoming freshmen. I think we had a lot of great games against tough competition this year, and next year's returners have gained a lot of valuable experience. Just like this year, I think we will have a great combination of experience and youth, and we look to carry the momentum of this season into next year and keep challenging to move up in our conference."