The Santa Clara Bruins water polo squad knew they had a tough task ahead of them in the CCS Championship. After beating the No. 3 seed, the Menlo-Atherton Bears, and the No. 2 seed, the Los Altos Eagles, the sixth seed upstart Bruins had a date with the No. 1 Gunn Titans.
The Titans clearly proved the tallest task. Santa Clara would jump out to a 2-0 first quarter lead and trailed just 4-3 at halftime, but five-straight goals by the Titans in the third quarter to build a 9-3 lead put the game away. Gunn would cruise from there to a 13-8 championship victory.
“I feel like we got overwhelmed by the way they played,” remarked Bruins’ senior captain Kat Peak. “They had two girls who were absolutely amazing.
“I’m proud of all of us,” Peak continued. “We are a young team and I’m really proud we even made it to CCS in the first place.”
The loss to Gunn marked just the second loss all year for the Bruins, who finished the season with an overall record of 20-2.
“I am super pleased with my team,” said fellow senior captain Mariah Walker. “Thirteen weeks ago, I didn’t expect us to be in the championship game and here we are.”
Along the journey to CCS this season, the Bruins won their league playoff tournament. They beat Harker twice after losing to them 10-9 early in the season, the second win coming in the De Anza League Championship game. That success certainly helped propel the Bruins into CCS where they knocked off two higher seeds before falling to Gunn.
By finishing second in CCS, the Bruins sent out long-time Head Coach Aja Bumbaca with a history-making season in her last year.
“It was definitely my goal to go out with a bang for Aja and myself, as well as the other seniors,” said Walker. “Even though we did come up a little short, we already made history. We are our first water polo team to make it to the CCS championship.”
Coach Bumbaca admitted after the game that all her years of coaching passed through her mind during the championship match.
“As the buzzer goes down and you make it to the championship game, literally all 13 years passed through my mind,” said coach Bumbaca. “All of the teams that I’ve had that have had solid wins, or heartbreaking losses, there were alumni here watching today. People were emailing me and texting me saying how proud they were. I’m super proud of this team, it was such a long journey and to end in a bang like this is amazing. My daughter is a freshman and she got to be a part of this team. It’s bittersweet because there is no next year for me.”
Next year, the Bruins will return most of the squad. Walker, Peak and Ana Ray were the only three seniors on the team. Starters Emily Wood, Charlie Bentley, Clara Sim and Melanie Caballero will all be back in the Bruins’ pool next season.