PRINCETON, N.J.- The Santa Clara men's water polo opens its season on the road this weekend at the three-day Princeton Invitational.
Santa Clara will play four games, beginning with a pair on Friday, in the 15-team tournament at DeNunzio Pool.
The Broncos first play host Princeton (3-0) at 11:45 a.m. PDT then Johns Hopkins (2-1) at 4:45 p.m. Santa Clara faces Brown (2-3) at noon on Saturday and Fordham (2-2) at 8:15 a.m. on Sunday.
"It's exciting to go and play teams when you've been training this hard," said head coach Keith Wilbur. "We are playing some good teams. It will be a good test to see where we are and build from there."
|Video||ESPN+ (Princeton game only)|
Last year, Santa Clara went 3-1 in the tournament with victories against Iona, Fordham and Navy. The lone loss was to Princeton.
This season, the Broncos have a number of returning players, including five seniors and nine juniors.
"We have a more veteran team than we have in the past two or three years," said Wilbur. "We have seniors like Sam (Toriggino), Reilley (May) and Dane (Estrella) who have been playing a lot for the last four years and are very comfortable. They've been showing good leadership. Veteran experience is a good thing to have and we have more of it this year than the past couple of years. It definitely makes a difference."
Toriggino has been in the starting lineup the last three seasons, while May, Shane Hughes and Mac Carey were in the opening lineup throughout 2017. In addition, Patrick Kirk, last year's leading scorer (32 goals), entered the starting lineup for the second half of the season.
Santa Clara will have to replace goalkeeper Emil Huebner, who started all 25 contests in 2017. Keaton Fox, a junior, served as the starter in 2016 and played 10 games off the bench a year ago.
The Broncos had three weeks of preseason workouts to prepare for a busy opening weekend to the regular season.
"I think preseason has been going well," said Wilbur. "Conditioning wise, they are in as good of shape as we've ever been at the start of the season. All of the guys are making our swim sets and are in good shape, which is a great base to have."
The Broncos have a number of key performers back from last year who had quite a bit of the team's production. In fact, all but four players return from 2017.
Seven of the top nine goal scorers are back, including junior Patrick Kirk who tallied a team-high 32 goals with 25 coming in the last 14 games of the season.
The team also has four of the top five producers of kickouts drawn back led by senior Reilley May who posted 53. He has 142 in his career, which is ties him for fifth on the school's all-time list.
Last season, junior Mac Carey ranked second on the team in both goals (29) and kickouts drawn (36) and led the team with 41 assists.
BY THE NUMBERS
• 69...Percentage of steals (178 of 258) from 2017 made by returning players
• 75...Percentage of assists (155 of 208) from 2017 produced by members of current roster
• 79...Percentage of goals (194 of 247) from 2017 tallied by the current players
• 90...Percentage of kickouts drawn (180 of 201) from 2017 earned by members of the current roster