Just a couple hours after Bruins boys’ water polo team lost to their arch rivals, the girls team evened the score this past Thursday. Led by star junior Mariah Walker and key scorer senior Maya Sugiyama, the Santa Clara Bruins swam to a somewhat comfortable 14-9 victory over the Wilcox Chargers. However, Bruins Head Coach Aja Bumbaca would have liked her squad to have finished the game stronger.
“At the end of the last couple games they have been getting too comfortable where they slack off a bit on fundamental things, whether on defense or bad passing,” acknowledged coach Bumbaca. “And that results in counter-attack goals against. In past years I’ve never had to worry about that, but this is a year that we need to focus on that. The game is not over until the fourth quarter ends.”
Seemingly having the ability to score at will, taking the foot off the gas a bit is human nature. The first quarter ended with Walker shooting from just a few feet from her own cage, about 30 meters away from the Chargers goal. Wilcox keeper Kaitlyn Wang admitted she was a bit out of position on the play, but it’s hard to blame anyone for not anticipating a shot from that far away. But Walker, in a Steph Curry-esque fashion, launched the shot all the way back from basically Los Gatos and the ball entered the cage just before time expired.
“Oh my gosh, when that happened, my mind was just boggled,” exclaimed Bruins captain Kathryn Peak on her fellow captain’s long-range buzzer-beating goal. “She’s known for doing buzzer shots at every Wilcox game and it’s just absolutely amazing to me.”
Walker would finish the game with nine of her team’s 14 goals, but it was Sugiyama who scored three of the first four Bruins’ tallies.
From the Wilcox perspective, Wilcox Head Coach Jake Paolinetti was similarly neither displeased nor ecstatic about his squad’s performance.
“We knew they had a couple of really strong girls and we just continued to leave them open, especially in the first half,” remarked coach Paolinetti. “But in the second half we held them to only five goals.”
In that second half, Wilcox sophomore Justine Garcia scored three goals in quick succession, helping pull the Chargers back into a more reasonable margin.
“She’s just really strong,” chimed Wang on Garcia. “If she can just get more experience —because this is just her second year playing — she will be able to understand the little nuances and become an amazing player. Her arms are already really strong, she’s a fast swimmer, she has everything she needs, she has all the tools. Once she starts understanding the game at a high level, she’s going to be absolutely amazing.”
Santa Clara’s next dip into the pool will be in Milpitas on Thursday, Sept. 20 and their next home swim will be on Sept. 25 against Lynbrook. The Chargers, meanwhile, host Monta Vista on the Sept. 20 and travel to Saratoga on the Sept. 27.