Senior-heavy Sagehen women’s water polo team looks to strong-arm competition in pursuit of SCIAC three-peat

Janelle Lewis PO ’19 defends a player in the Sagehens’ first home game of the season, a 15-3 win against Toronto on Thursday, Feb. 21. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

The Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team (3-5) found itself swimming in the deep end of the pool at the start of this season, going head-to-head with Division I powerhouses like No. 1 ranked USC.

Even during the especially challenging early season games, the Sagehens had no shortage of senior leadership, which they hope will lead them to their goal of three-peating as SCIAC champions and qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

Despite the high level of competition and some early season losses, the Sagehens are now riding a four-game win streak against D-I competition as they approach SCIAC matchups.

Head coach Alex Rodriguez encouraged his team to have a “growth mindset” when approaching the difficult matches early in the season.

“We are always looking to play better opponents,” he said. “Our sport is small, and we just want good competition.”

Kahea Kahaulelio PZ ’19 said the seasoned and mature group of seniors, which makes up half of the 16-person team, has supported the team through the challenging early-season matches.

“It’s wonderful knowing that all eight of us have come so far since freshman year, and that for four years we have been playing hard and growing together,” Kahaulelio said. “I hope that the seniors can serve as guidance for the freshman in practice and in games.”

Rodriguez believes that the seniors will be a critical part of the team’s success as the conference season approaches.

“This team is experienced, mature and talented. Every coach would love to coach this specific team,” he said. “I basically have eight assistant coaches who are interested in the team’s success.”

Rodriguez said a third straight SCIAC title will be difficult, but he thinks the Sagehens are up for the challenge.

“The conference is going to be tougher than ever,” he said. “We need to take every game one at a time and not overlook any of our opponents.”

Kahaulelio agreed: “Repeating as SCIAC champions will take all that we can give, keeping our heads up and walking on the pool deck with the game on our shoulders. Last year, every person on the team was really mentally and physically ready to be tough for SCIACs, so it’s important to go in with a similar attitude.”

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