Water Polo Goes Into Playoffs as Top Seed in SCIACs

The Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team handily defeated cross-street rivals Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 13-5 before a full crowd at Haldeman pool Saturday night. Amid screaming fans from all five colleges, the Sagehens honored their graduating seniors during what would have been the final home game if the Sagehens weren’t hosting the playoffs, starting today and ending Sunday.

After team introductions full of technical difficulties and miscommunication errors, the Sagehens and the Athenas lined up to start the game. The Athenas started the first quarter by winning the sprint to gain the first possession — something they would repeat in every quarter.

The Sagehens answered this brief victory with three goals and a complete shutdown of the Athena offense. Tamara Perea PI ’11 scored the first goal of the game with her signature catch-the-goalie-off-guard shot from nearly half court. This was followed by a quick point-blank dump shot goal by Karen Bonner PO ’10 off a perfectly placed pass from Annie Oxborough-Yankus PI ’12.

“That was my favorite shot last year,” Bonner said after the game. “It was nice to be able to do it again during my senior game.”

Seniors Bonner and Naneh Apkarian PO ’10 led the Hens with three goals each. Other senior highlights include Danielle Joseph PO ’10’s four steals, more than anyone on either team. Sarah Woods PO ’10 put up two goals of her own, one of which was a beautiful backhand shot from the set position. Rachel Bellows PI ’10 added two to the Sagehens’ ever-growing list of steals.

As a team, the Sagehens dominated in every aspect of the game for all 32 minutes of play. Defensively, they held CMS to only five goals and grabbed a staggering total of nineteen steals. They held the lead the entire game, never letting the Athenas come within two goals. Their scoring runs of five goals in the first quarter and four in the fourth trumped CMS’s three-goal run in the second. Every member of the team contributed either a few goals or a set of steals; some had both.

This game, which exemplified the Sagehens’ flawless teamwork, bodes well for the playoffs this weekend. While they have always been famous for incredible defense and forcing their opponents into many turnovers, they have struggled in their shooting percentage. This was evident in the match against Cal Lu, which they lost 11-10 in overtime.

During this game, they completely missed the cage about a dozen times, had almost double their opponent’s shooting opportunities, and still managed to take the match into overtime. The Sagehens would have had no problem against Cal Lu if they shot as well as they did against the Athenas.

For this reason, as Head Coach Alex Rodriguez said, “We should beat them if we play them during the SCIAC championship game. I really want to beat [the Regals].”

If last year is any prediction of this year’s playoffs, the Sagehens will probably face the Cal Lu Regals in the championship game this Sunday at 3:15 p.m. Even though they lost at the hands of the Regals earlier this season, their victory over Occidental College returns them the first place seed in SCIACs. This gives them a favorable schedule this weekend: today they play against Cal Tech and tomorrow they play the winner of the University of Redlands-CMS matchup.

As they have handily defeated all three of these teams this year, they will probably play the winner of the Cal Lu-Occidental matchup in the Championship game Sunday. If they were second or third place instead of first, they might have been forced to play Cal Lu in the semi-final game.

Beating the Regals in the semi-finals would probably have the same outcome as beating them during the championship game, but that simply would not be sufficient revenge. They don’t have this problem, though, so thankfully the Sagehens won’t have to battle the Regals until Sunday.

The Sagehens have spent the majority of their practice time this week preparing for this championship game in the same way they prepared for Occidental and CMS, with hopefully the same outcome. Coach Rodriguez sets up simulation drills and scrimmages, with one team playing in Cal Lu’s style to help the Sagehens adapt quickly to the actual Regals.

Not that the Sagehens are completely overlooking Redlands and CMS, however. Although although neither of those teams this year gavethe Sagehens much competition, as Assistant Coach Chris Lee explained, “If they play a good game, they could beat anyone in SCIACs.”

The Sagehens aren’t going to let them play a good game. They’re not going to allow anyone get in the way of their rivalry against Cal Lu.