SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Justin Harrison scored three goals to lead a balanced offensive attack for Air Force which slipped past Santa Clara men's water polo, 13-11, on Sunday.
The Broncos (7-14, 2-5), playing their last home game, had a strong fourth quarter, scoring three times in under two minutes, but were unable to pull ahead in a matchup of Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) teams battling for tournament seeding.
Patrick Kirk, who joined Shane Hughes with a team-best three goals, scored with two minutes remaining to close the gap to 12-11. But Riley Thomas answered with an insurance goal on an exclusion with 1:22 left. Thomas scored twice, as did Luke Andres, for the Falcons (7-13, 3-4) who had nine players in the scoring column.
DeMarco Orella, playing in his final game at Sullivan Aquatic Center, along with John Raineri, scored twice in less than 30 seconds during the final period, and was followed by Reilley May's goal less than one minute later to chop the Falcons' lead 11-10.
The Broncos, who defeated Fresno Pacific, 17-11, on Saturday, used their offense to close the gap in the final quarter, but were unable to utilize their defense to pull ahead.
"We made a run offensively, but we have to do better on defense," said head coach Keith Wilbur. "We kept coming back and making these runs, but when you're down by that many, you also have to make more stops. I thought there was really good energy and effort in that fourth period, making that run, but mentally there was certain mistakes that we made that they capitalized on."
Raineri scored twice in under one minute during the third quarter, but Harrison scored 30 seconds later to give Air Force a 11-7 lead heading into the final period.
The Falcons scored twice in first three minutes of the opening period, and held the Broncos without a goal in the first quarter, but Hughes posted two midway through the second period. Kirk's goal less than two minutes later pulled the Broncos to 4-3, but the Falcons fired back with four markers in the final three minutes to extended the lead to 8-3 at the half.
- Santa Clara recognized its seniors, Orella and Raineri, prior to the game. That duo has played together the last nine years. Before suiting for the last five with the Broncos, they were high school teammates at Bellarmine College Prep for four seasons.
- Mac Carey, Kirk, and Orella each tallied a team-high three assists.
- Dane Estrella and May drew two kickouts apiece.
- Emil Huebner was a presence in net, blocking nine and stealing one.
The Broncos face Stanford in a road nonconference game on Saturday at noon to close out the regular season. The WWPA Tournament will be held Nov. 17-19 at UC San Diego.