SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Blair Akerland and Keri Clifford scored three goals apiece to lead Santa Clara women's water polo to an 11-6 victory against the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds on Sunday afternoon in a Golden Coast Conference contest.
The Broncos (6-14, 1-1), who are in the midst of a four-game homestand, broke the game open early in the second quarter by scoring four goals in less than four minutes.
Akerland had a pair of goals, both set up by goalkeeper Francesca Puccinelli, in less than a one-minute span to increase the lead to 6-1 with 4:22 left in the second quarter.
Clifford added a goal with 3:04 remaining before halftime, and Hailey Eberle scored a minute later to push the advantage to 8-1.
"We really wanted to have a good tempo and counter attack, and they did a really good job, especially in the first half of pushing on the counter attack every time down and that got us a good lead that we were able to hold on to in the second half," Santa Clara head coach Keith Wilbur said.
Julia Ponce scored a team-high three times for Fresno Pacific (12-9, 0-2), which rallied for four second-half goals, but never got closer than four.
Puccinelli posted eight blocks for the Broncos who were an efficient 11 of 30 on shot attempts, but only connected on 1 of 7 powerplay attempts.
Santa Clara opened its four-game homestand on Saturday, losing 9-8 in overtime against No. 20 Harvard University.
"We're focusing on improving every game," Wilbur said. "I think during the Harvard game we got better. Hopefully, we still have a month and a half of season, we can be in games like that and know how to win them at the end."
Both Akerland and Clifford were efficient on their shot attempts. Akerland needed only four attempts to score her three goals, and Clifford was a perfect 3-for-3.
Clifford scored off second-chance opportunities. With 1:31 left in the fourth quarter, Clifford scored the final goal for the Broncos, corralling Annie Eldredge's missed attempt and pushing it by Fresno Pacific goalie, Courtney Hall who had four saves in the game.
Akerland was successful on the counter attack. In the beginning of the second quarter, Clifford blocked a shot, allowing Akerland to get out on the counter attack and score. Akerland successfully countered three times this game, resulting in three scoring attempts.
Santa Clara is off next week before facing GCC members Azusa Pacific on Friday, March 31, and Loyola Marymount the following day.
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