After scoring four of her team’s five first-quarter goals, Santa Clara Bruins star sophomore Kathryn Peak ended up sitting out the entire third quarter in exclusion trouble. For those unfamiliar with water polo, three exclusion penalties on one player means they are done for the game, just like how basketball players can foul out.
Santa Clara built a 5-2 lead in that opening quarter, but Peak’s penalty trouble, along with multiple other exclusions by her teammates, allowed the Fremont Firebirds to stick around.
“I took her out the whole third quarter,” commented Bruins Head Coach Aja Bumbaca on making sure Peak didn’t pick up her third exclusion. “I don’t have a big team, so my solid starters, if they get two exclusions, I have to pull them. The reality is we need them. When [Peak] went back in, I told her she has to have some finesse, it’s a physical game, but she needed to stay off of them.”
After a scoreless second quarter, the Firebirds trimmed the Bruins’ lead to 6-4 in the third. In the fourth, the teams exchanged goals back and forth. With just under three minutes remaining and the Firebirds having pulled back to within two (at 7-5) is when Peak saved her best for last. She intercepted an opponent’s pass and then made a nice lob feed over the top so that Emily Fields could swim up to it and start a dangerous attack at the other end. Fields got close to the goal before dishing off to Emily Grossman. While her initial point-blank shot was denied, Grossman calmly gathered in her own rebound and deposited the follow up shot in the back of the goal.
“Emily [Grossman] did really well there,” recalled Peak on the big insurance goal. “A lot of times people will get nervous under pressure and miss the ball, so I was really proud of her that she scored there.”
“[Grossman’s] composure there is attributed to repetition,” noted coach Bumbaca on the late goal. “I’ve ingrained in them over the years not to be frustrated if you miss a goal, people miss goals all the time. It’s about how you react. Once you shoot, you get a new 30-second shot clock, so I’m constantly telling them to relax and start all over. She got the second opportunity and put it in the cage.”
Two of Fremont’s six goals came during 6-on-5 situations when the Bruins got into penalty trouble. While Santa Clara’s offense dried up with just three goals total over the final three quarters, their even-strength defense was stout from start to finish. The majority of quality shot attempts that didn’t find the back of the net came via Bruins shooters. Santa Clara clanged at least three shots off goal posts.
“That first quarter, when we make them play man-to-man, we played a solid game defensively, but then they came back with the exclusions,” noted coach Bumbaca. “We get those exclusions and it’s because we’re tired. Instead of taking that extra stroke, I call it ‘ball side’ and being in between the player and the ball, you’re constantly playing catchup.”
The victory improves the Bruins record to 2-1 on the season. They play again on Thursday, at home against Monta Vista.