The Santa Clara Bruins water polo squad earned their first victory of the young season Tuesday afternoon. Powered by a 10-goal performance from four-year varsity player Emily Wood, the Bruins knocked off the visiting Saratoga Falcons by a 17-12 final to even up their league record at 1-1.
“I think we did a lot better than we expected to, we played a lot better than our past two games,” remarked Wood after the match. “We worked more as a team, strung good passes together which opened up more opportunities for all of us.”
First year Bruins Head Coach Jessi Mankin knows her job would be a lot tougher without having such strong senior leadership in the pool.
“It’s great that she has that experience because she definitely shows that when she’s working with her teammates,” noted Coach Mankin. “She’s always helping out and showing some of our new players how and why we’re doing certain things in practice. She’s a great source of knowledge for her teammates.”
One of Santa Clara’s new players is someone who Wood might not be able to help as much as the others. Wood jokes she could never be a goalkeeper, but praised keeper Miranda Gutierrez, who is brand new to water polo this season.
“She just started two weeks ago as goalie and she’s been doing really well, some really crazy saves out there. Personally, I’m so afraid of the ball hitting my face, I could never do it myself,” chuckled Wood. “Most of the goalie’s work is judgement calls and she’s been making really good judgement calls, going out to the ball when she knows she can get it before the other team. She goes out and does it with so much confidence and fierceness.”
Gutierrez has been a soccer goalie in the past and Mankin believes that experience on the soccer pitch, knowing angles and how to position herself, has certainly helped her perform at a high level early on.
Now, one might see 12 goals allowed and wonder how the goalie could have played well, but Gutierrez was most definitely one of the standout players on Tuesday. The majority of the Falcons’ goals were scored on fast breaks from poor transition defense from Santa Clara, leaving Gutierrez facing a bunch of point-blank opportunities. Gutierrez actually managed to stop one of those scoring chances with an opponent all alone in front of her. She also cut off a number of Falcons swimmers from getting to 50-50 balls that would have become dangerous chances had she remained on the goal line.
When the Bruins defense was set in position and ready to defend, the team did play well on the defensive end of the pool. A back-and-forth game through three quarters, saw Santa Clara eventually put the game away in the fourth quarter. Realizing that Saratoga was rotating in different players as goalies, the Bruins were able to score a bunch of long distance shots just under the crossbar. Rounding out the scoring for Santa Clara in this game were Fiona Cummings (four), Katrina Colwill (two) and Heather Esquerra (one).
The Bruins have a week off before playing at home again next Tuesday against Milpitas.