With less than three minutes to play and up by three, it looked as if the Santa Clara Bruins were in comfortable position to even up their season series against rival Wilcox. The Chargers, however, had other ideas and cranked up the high-pressure defense to try and max their opportunities to score. It almost worked as Wilcox scored two late goals, but the final horn blasted before the Chargers’ Joyce Huang Ooi was able to get a last second shot away.
“We got a little lucky at the end,” admitted Wilcox Head Coach Scott Blake on the Chargers’ late comeback attempt. “We got one in and then we got another one, but with that little time left, the Bruins did a great job handling the ball to the end. These are always good, intense games with Santa Clara—against our rivals. Obviously, we hoped we would have come out on top, but that was a good game. Fun to watch, fun to coach.”
In the first half the two teams went back and forth. Santa Clara scored first on a terrific long distance shot into the far corner by Mariah Walker. That was quickly matched by Huang Ooi, who lofted a long distance shot over the head of Bruins’ keeper Janna Crocker to tie the score at one.
“Whenever the goalie is out of position, if she’s more to one side of the cage, I’ll take that shot,” noted Huang Ooi. “If I’m at a good angle, I’ll just go for it.”
According to Bruins Head Coach Aja Bumbaca, Crocker played one of her better games overall. She stopped Chargers’ top player Jez Garcia—who scored five of the Chargers’ eight goals—on two point blank opportunities.
“She had an amazing game, amazing game,” repeated coach Bumbaca on her goaltender’s performance. “She had the game of her life, I’m really proud of her.”
While Garcia paced the Chargers’ offense, on the other side it was Walker who likewise led the Bruins with five goals.
“She’s an athlete,” remarked coach Bumbaca on Walker. “Something you have to know about her is that she’s 13. She came on my pool deck as a freshman last year at 12, she skipped two grades. She’s a varsity player at 13, she’ll turn 14 at the end of October. She’s just a natural talent, but she loves the game and is always perfecting her craft.”
While Walker led the Bruins in scoring, it was actually a great passing sequence she was involved in that led to what ended up being the game-winning goal. With the score 8-6, coach Bumbaca called a timeout to set up a play for Kathryn Peak. The Chargers’ defenders though kept tight on Peak and Walker. Eventually, that allowed Emily Grossman to get open for a clean look at the goal, burying the shot in the far corner.
“We didn’t mess up the play [obviously], it just didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” recalled Walker on setting up Grossman for the goal. “They pressed on Kathryn and then they pressed on me, and then Emily, who is an amazing shooter, got the ball and put it in the high corner, it was textbook perfect.”
“Kathryn was supposed to be the shooter,” added coach Bumbaca on the final goal. “She was supposed to go into what we call ‘the pocket’ which is a three-three with a drive. But they were camping on Kathryn and were camping on Mariah so I have to give kudos to my girls for being able to readjust. Look for the open shot and make it work.”
With the victory, the Bruins improve to 6-5 in league and even up the season series with Wilcox at 1-1 after previously losing to their rival, 7-4. With the loss, the Chargers fall to 8-3 in league. Both teams play their next matches on Thursday.
Thank you for all the coverage you have given HS waterpolo this year.