The men's water polo team traveled to California this past weekend to play some of the country's top ranked teams in the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational. Ultimately, Brown fell to four ranked teams in no. 20 California Baptist, no. 15 Air Force, no. 16 Santa Clara and no. 13 UC Davis, but was able to pick up a win against unranked Fresno Pacific. Despite the results, the Bears generally improved with each game.
Bruno first faced the California Baptist Lancers last Friday and fell by a score of 11-8. The Bears put up a fight and the game remained close up to the half, with California Baptist in a narrow 5-4 lead. The Lancers stepped up their game in the third quarter, out-scoring Bruno 3-1. But the Bears did not give up, and both teams scored three goals in the third quarter, leading the Lancers to an 11-8 victory. Kent Holland '10 stuck it out in goal the whole game, accumulating six saves. Svetozar Stefanovic '13 led the offense with four goals, while Gordon Hood '11 contributed two. Dean Serure '13 and Michael Hartwick '13 scored one each for Bruno.
On Saturday, Brown played well against Fresno Pacific and Air Force. The Bears had an impressive performance against the Sunbirds, with a 10-0 lead by the beginning of the fourth quarter. Both teams scored two in the final quarter, resulting in a 12-2 victory for Bruno. Hood was the player to look out for in this game, with six goals and two assists.
Stefanovic added three goals, two assists and four steals, while Corey Schwartz '11 handed Bruno two goals and three steals. Once again, Holland, who was recently named CWPA Player of the week, commanded the defense with nine saves on goal throughout the game.
Later that day, the Bears put up a good fight against Air Force but lost, 9-8, in overtime. After the first quarter the team was behind 3-1, but the Bears did not give up and instead tied the game 3-3 by the half. The score was 7-7 after the fourth quarter, bringing the game into a forced overtime. While the Falcons scored one goal in the first overtime,
Stefanovic was the hero of the second overtime, scoring a goal to even the score once again. The teams fought till the very end. With 18 seconds left Air Force scored, finishing the game with a 9-8 win over Brown. The major offensive players were Schwartz with four goals, Stefanovic with three and Hartwick with one.
As the final day of the tournament approached, the team grew weary. "Ultimately, five games in 48 hours was a lot to ask of the team but they responded by giving it everything they had and got better each game," Mercado said. Although Brown fell to Santa Clara in game four, they kept a steady lead throughout the first half with a halftime score of 7-5. As the game went on, the Bears could not hold on to their lead and were only winning 8-7 by the third. The Broncos persevered through the fourth, outscoring Bruno 3-0 and winning the game 10-8. Zach Levko '10 and Hood each scored two goals and Stefanovic was right behind them with one goal. Holland continued his solid performance in goal with eight saves.
It is important that the team "find consistency we need to be the dominant team we need to be, we are overall still feeling self out as a unit, and hopefully we can find that consistency sooner rather than later" Mercardo said.
The Bears' final game was against their toughest opponent in the invitational, UC Davis. Bruno fell to but still put up a sterling fight. Stefanovic notched two of the team's four goals, while Hood and Levko contributed one each. In the cage, Holland had seven saves and three steals. Despite the four losses, Mercado said he was still pleased with the team's performance this weekend. While they did not exceed his expectations, "every game was a vast improvement, and the team overall met every expectation I had for them."
On Sunday the team will travel to Wheaton College to face the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in their final game before the Northern Division Championship on Nov. 7.