May 23, 2024

A rematch happens often in sports, but not every rematch lives up to the hype. Often times our expectations do not line up with reality and a would-be spectacle turns into disappointment. That was not the case, however, with this rematch which pitted the CBU men’s water polo team against West Coast Conference counterpart Santa Clara in the team’s first official conference game since joining the WCC.

It did not fail to defy expectations, with the team winning 15-14 in triple-overtime, with senior team captain, Caleb Teraoka, netting the final goal to seal Santa Clara’s fate in the final quarter. 

The team was able to compete consistently throughout this slug match with Santa Clara, not just because they have a deep bench they can pull from, but because of the unselfish nature of the players.

“We want to have a team game. We normally don’t want to have one person to score seven goals, it’s always gonna be spread out, so we wanna use our depth and a little bit more motion,” said head Head Coach Kevin Rosa. “The motion isn’t necessarily to get that guy open, it may be to get that next guy open. They have to know, hey, I may have to work really hard and I’m not gonna get the stat but the team is gonna get the stat and that’s the most important thing.”

It is not just a new year for the team, however, but the advent of a new conference that brings with it new opportunities and challenges for both the coaching staff and the team. However, they are more than confident that they can handle what lies ahead.

Had the team stayed in the WWPA, they would have been playing against only Division Two schools and this was what partly led to the decision to switch conferences.

“When the WCC decided to form a conference, we figured we needed to go with the other division one schools. We decided to step up to the plate and go to where the competition was going,” said Rosa. “[We’re] still with Santa Clara, LMU, and Air Force, which we’ve been very competitive with those three schools if you look back in the past, it always seems to be a one-goal game one way or another. So right where we need to be, in terms of competitive games, we lost UC Davis and San Diego, who were the perennial kind of WWPA champions, but we gained Pacific and Pepperdine, who were the perennial kind of GCC champions.” 

Having this kind of a line-up with both new and old faces, it was important for the team to stand out and make a statement, a concept which the team certainly understood the importance of in their rematch against Santa Clara, especially after having already played and lost against them once at the Overnight/MPSF Invitational in September. Having the chance to study your opponent and prepare before a major conference game such as this was an opportunity not lost on Teraoka or the team, who had an especially personal grudge against the team. 

“The first time we played Santa Clara, their defense caught us off guard. It is a unique defense that only a few teams in collegiate water polo use, so we did not necessarily know how to attack it effectively. In the days leading up to the game, we practiced different strategies against this 4-2 defense,” said Caleb Teraoka, senior nursing major and men’s water polo player. “We gained confidence against it and were more comfortable when we saw it in the game. It felt very good being able to beat them at home. In my time at CBU, I had never lost to Santa Clara before, so after we lost the first time, I did not want to have the same feeling again. I especially did not want to lose in front of our home crowd.”

Since the men’s water polo teams moved from the WWPA to the WWC over the summer, Santa Clara is merely a sample of what the team is expecting to face off against this season in their new conference.

“Every team in our conference is good, so we cannot overlook anyone,” said Bodhi Bowden, senior kinesiology major and water polo player. “We can expect all games to be a back-and-forth struggle. It’s going to be a tough battle every game to win this season.”

Bowden, who has seen this team grow and change through the different conferences the team has participated in, understands the importance of starting off strong. 

“Going into our first WCC game, I think we were more mentally prepared as a team. We knew this was a big game and we had to get the win. For me, I just try to stay positive, focused and keep my head in the game. It felt great being able to play Santa Clara again and being the first team to win a WCC match,” said Bowden. “I think the message it sent to other teams in the WCC is, ‘We’re ready to win the WCC Championship.'” 

The ‘golden goal’ of the game was a visible demonstration of not just the man who took the shot, but of the team’s determination and mental fortitude as a whole as they fight their way through the WCC to the top.

Teraoka described those critical few seconds at the end of the game by saying, “Just before the beginning of sudden death, I looked over to the packed crowd and felt their energy and focus on the game. This gave me energy and motivation to finish this game as quickly as possible. Once we got the first possession, I knew this game was going to be done after the first 30 seconds. That shot I took, I have practiced many times. I was not nervous, but calm and confident that it was going to go in and the rest is history.” 

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