Athenas water polo roast and serve Sunbirds 11-8 in home opener victory

Anna Fry HM ’21 had three goals and three assists against Whittier in 2019 season. (Courtesy: CMS Athletics)

With a rough trip to Long Beach and Playa Vista in the rear view mirror, the Athenas were on the hunt, returning to a packed house at Axelrood Pool for their home opener.

The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) women’s water polo team claimed its first victory of the season Saturday, defeating the Fresno Pacific University Sunbirds 11-8. The victory followed two losses on Jan. 24th against ranked Division I teams Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount University.

In response to their recent losses, Jessi Beyer SC ’23 made it clear the Athenas came into the game hungry for a win. 

“Those were good games [against] good teams, but I think this definitely is preparing us for what’s to come in a couple of weeks,” Beyer said. “Our mindset coming into this game was to come out strong with a lot of heavy pressure, listen to our center defenders, communicate with one another and go as hard as we can, push the tempo.” 

Beyer’s teammates shared her enthusiasm for getting back in the pool as they looked to secure their first win. Elise Power CM ’25 spoke of the home-pool advantage. 

“Coming off of two losses was okay because playing at home, the energy is a lot different,” Power said. “Playing a team that isn’t as high ranked [in] Division I definitely gives us a sense that we’re going into the game to just have fun instead of going in for a win … it’s still a really good experience for us.” 

The positive attitude and energy of the crowd appeared to help as the Athenas started the game off strong with a 2-0 lead after two back-to-back goals from Christina Kulick CM 23 and Mia Adsen SC ’24. Despite the Sunbirds’ first goal, CMS’s Grace Clark CM 26 quickly returned the favor, leaving the score 3-1 heading into the second quarter.  

The second quarter was full of action, with goals from both teams. Early on, the Sunbirds scored twice to draw even at 3-3. The Athenas responded with goals from Clark and Cooper McKenna CM ’24, putting the Athenas back in the lead 5-3. After the back-to-back goals from the Athenas, the Sunbirds scored on a powerplay with a mere two seconds left in the second period, bringing the score to an uncomfortably close 5-4 heading into the second half. 

Seemingly unbothered by the tight score, Clark entered the second half confident in her team’s ability to pull ahead and solidify their lead. 

“We wanted to pick up our intensity in the second half, and I know we had it in us to push ahead,” Clark said. 

The Athenas started off the second half with a goal from Kulick, followed by a second from McKenna and Clark’s third. The Sunbirds had a muted showing in the third quarter, only managing to put one on the board, leaving CMS with a solid 8-5 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Athenas started the fourth quarter strong, adding back-to-back goals to create a comfortable cushion at 10-5. Although the Sunbirds would score three in the quarter, Dara Schoolcraft CM ’25 put the nail in the coffin, finishing off Fresno Pacific 11-8.

Reflecting on the win, Clark mostly attributed their success to the team chemistry and culture they have created. 

“I would describe the character of the team as really selfless and motivating because everyone is always wanting the best for one another and we support each other everyday in practice and games,” Clark said. “On a good day or a bad day, they’re always there to lift you up and make you feel better. It’s super fun to be a part of because the energy at practice is always happy and upbeat.”

Echoing Clark’s sentiment, Power adds that their success is no doubt due to the relationships they have built both in and out of practice. 

“We have always had really good team chemistry and we’ve always been super energetic with each other,” Power said. “I think that creates a good community where everyone can flourish.”

With a positive attitude, Beyer is looking ahead as the Athenas inch closer to conference play.

“We have a group of 10 [first-years] that are extremely talented, so I’m excited for what’s to come, said Beyer. “I’m looking forward to winning SCIAC, winning NCAA and having fun along the way.”

Adding a win to their record, the Athenas now sit at 1-2 where they look forward to eight more preseason games before heading into regular season conference play where they are currently predicted to finish second in SCIAC (following the Pomona-Pitzer team who also sits first in Division III preseason power rankings.) 

CMS will return to the pool on Feb. 17th when they face off against Biola University at Fresno State in the first game of the Fresno State Invite.

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