Men’s water polo finishes 4-1 in final weekend of regular season play

Bruno will kick off its postseason at the CWPA championships next weekend

Sports Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The No. 20 men’s water polo team traveled to California this past weekend to compete in the Rodeo Santa Clara Bronco Invitational hosted by Santa Clara University.

During the tournament, the Bears faced five teams from California — No. 17 California Baptist University, No. 10 Concordia University Irvine, No. 16 Santa Clara University, the University of California, Davis and Fresno Pacific University. The Bears (18-11, CWPA 8-5) won four of its five tournament games to finish off its regular season.

“Going to California is always exciting for our team,” said Matty Gallas ’16. “It gives us an opportunity to play teams with a national reputation. It is also a nice change to play outside.”

The squad’s first game of the tournament was against the Cal Baptist Lancers (13-12). After a goal by Henry Fox ’15 in the second quarter, the Bears established a 4-2 lead over the Lancers. But Cal Baptist responded with two more goals before the end of the half, and the game entered the third quarter tied 4-4. The game proved to be a defensive battle as the final two frames of the match saw only a single additional goal — a third quarter blast from James McNamara ’14. The game ended in a 5-4 Bruno victory with McNamara contributing three scores and Fox netting two.

On day two of the Rodeo, Bruno faced off against the Eagles (17-8), battling through a game-long tug-of-war for the lead. In the first quarter, the Bears scored four goals to Concordia’s three. The match’s next two periods saw a total of five goals by the Eagles, along with four goals by the Brown squad. With the game tied heading into its final minutes, McNamara scored the final goal of the match with 1:16 remaining, leading Bruno to an 11-10 victory.

“Every game we learned something different — we played great defense when we shut down Cal Baptist on Friday,” said Head Coach Felix Mercado. “We also showed how great we could be offensively when we matched Concordia goal for goal on Saturday.”

The tournament resumed later in the day with an afternoon match against host Santa Clara (13-10). The Bears outpaced the home team and carried a 6-3 lead into the second half. The third quarter included four goals from Santa Clara, while Bruno was held to three goals. The Broncos responded with a vengeance in the fourth quarter, scoring three goals while holding the Bears scoreless. Santa Clara seized the lead with just 11 seconds left, and the 10-9 loss would be the team’s only blemish of the tournament.

The Bears faced off against the Aggies (9-12) in Sunday’s first game, which featured a late-game rally by the team to notch a win over UC Davis. The Aggies started off strong, taking a 3-0 lead after the first quarter. Bruno responded in the second quarter with two goals, but UC Davis kept the three-point lead with two goals of its own. The squad responded forcefully in the third quarter with four scores while limiting the Aggies to just one goal. The game was tied 8-8 with less than a minute left in the fourth frame when Will Klein ’16 scored the game-winning goal to help the Bears take home the win.

In Bruno’s final game of the tournament, the team displayed its offensive prowess, taking on the Sunbirds (6-14). The team entered the third quarter with a 5-1 lead over Fresno Pacific after a pair of goals by Jake Wyatt ’17 in the second period. The Sunbirds narrowed the gap to two goals in the fourth quarter, but the Bears were able to muster up one final goal to obtain a 9-6 win in their final game of regular season play.

“Four out of our five games were decided by one goal, which is way more than what could be expected competition-wise,” Gallas said. “Our trip gave us some much needed experience in close game situations, which will be important for us down the road.”

“Over the weekend, we saw how great we could be when we play as a unit and as long as we stayed focused and on-task,” Mercado said. “There is no question that this has been an enjoyable season for the entire team.”

Bruno opens postseason play Nov. 9-10 at the Collegiate Water Polo Association Northern Divisional Championships, hosted by Harvard. Last season, the Bears suffered an 8-7 loss against the St. Francis College Terriers (13-8) in the CWPA championship final game.

“This weekend was great for our chemistry — we felt like we all grew as a team through each game and are continuing to get better,” Gallas said. “That is our main goal going into the postseason, just getting better.”

“It is all about this year — we do not talk about losing last year,” Mercado said. “This is a totally different team with new players, along with returning members that are filling in new roles.”

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