Women’s Water Polo: Sagehens Victorious in Three out of Four Games at Convergence Tournament

Southern California finally gave the Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team a beautiful, warm weekend at Haldeman Pool. The timing was convenient, as they hosted the Claremont Convergence Tournament. The Sagehens slung on their dark, checkered, home-team caps for the first time in this season’s home opener, finishing 3-1 in the tournament.

While they enjoyed a day off from classes, the Hens spent their Cesar Chavez Day hard at work at the pool. Early on Friday afternoon, they started off the tournament with a dominating 15-8 win over fellow SCIAC members, the Whittier College Poets.

The team started the game off ahead, going up 5-1 after the first quarter. They then struggled a bit defensively for the next two quarters and went into the final quarter ahead by just two points, 10-8.

The team made up for that defensive hiccup by completely shutting down the Poets in the fourth quarter. Offensively, they came up with a load of steals and kicked their counter attacks into gear. The drained Poets had difficulty catching up to the speeding Hens.

The Sagehens demonstrated all-around offensive and defensive dominance against Whittier. Leading the Hens in the counter-attack goals was Sarah “Dub” Woods PO ’10, whose legendary off-the-water “pop shot” consistently made the Poet goalie miss. Sprinter Danielle “Dej” Joseph PO ’10 topped the field with three steals. Karen Bonner PO ’10 and Perri Hopkins PI ’12 each knocked in two goals from close range, while utilities Dana Kingman PI ’11 and Monica “DJ” Loomba PI ’13 each set a well-aimed shot into the goal from the outside.

On Friday evening, the Sagehens battled the St. Francis Terriers, who had traveled all the way from New York. Again, P-P excelled both defensively and offensively, holding the Terriers to only four goals while racking up a total of 12 themselves. Their defense progressed in inverse proportion to their offense, as they scored nearly all of their goals in the first half but allowed only one opponent’s goal in the second.

“St. Francis has given us some trouble in the past,” remarked Head Coach Alex Rodriguez after the game. “Even though this is one of the best teams they’ve had, we did really well against them this year.”

The Sagehens topped the Terriers across the board. The Hens’ 13 total steals dwarfed the Terriers’ solo one. Woods and Hopkins added another three goals apiece. Powerhouse Tamara Perea PI ’11 twice caught the goalie off-guard from the outside, and lefty Annie Oxborough-Yankus PI ’12 nailed two shots from the spot most right-handers would consider the “weak side.”

Saturday morning commenced with a 12-8 win over local Azusa Pacific University, whom the Hens would play at home again Tuesday night. As in the previous two games, the Hens proved to be offensively strong at the beginning of the game, knocking the Cougars down early and pulling ahead 7-4 before halftime. Defensively, they continually ended the Cougar offensive with 13 steals.

Highlights from this game include Perea’s three goals (scored before the defense knew what hit them), Oxborough-Yankus’s three goals on the 6-on-5 offense, and Wood’s three goals in another load of counter attacks. Hopkins also scored two goals on cross-passes and, Rachel Bellows PO ’10, came through with a goal to jump-start the game despite her injury.

In the pre-game meeting, Rodriguez said that “[the game against APU] will be a good indicator of where we stand,” as APU has defeated SCIAC participants CMS and the the University of Redlands already this year. The Sagehens’ decisive victory over APU predicts some favorable circumstances in their future, though the succeeding match against Iona may not be quite as optimistic.

The Sagehens’ only loss in the weekend came at the hands of the Iona Gaels, an East Coast team that defeated Sagehen rival and 2009 SCIAC Champions Cal Lu University on Saturday morning. Iona thwarted the Hens’ early-season attempt to deal revenge to Cal Lu by defeating them 6-12. This match marked the climax of the tournament, as P-P and Iona were the only teams who remained undefeated going into the final match.

The Sagehens once again started the match solidly, holding Iona’s lead to a single goal after the first quarter. However, P-P couldn’t find effective means to penetrate the Gaels’ “M-drop” defense. The Hens encountered further difficulty in defending Iona’s numerous overpowering setters, who scored most of their goals from point-blank range without even looking at the cage. Perea and Oxborough-Yankus managed to take advantage of a brief hole in the defense with two goals apiece from a distance. Kingman also came through with a buzzer-beating change-up goal in the second quarter, and Wood weaseled her way on the board with another goal.

The Hens left the tournament with a record of 3-1 and a current season record of 8-10. They have soundly won both of their conference games this year, the first against Redlands back in January and the second against Whittier over the weekend. They begin official SCIAC play tomorrow in their match at the University of Redlands. They will return home next Saturday for two matches against Cal Lutheran and La Verne.

Overall, the Hens had an excellent tournament. Sure, it would have been nice to come out of the home opener victorious. But if this tournament is at all indicative of future performance in the SCIAC Conference, the Sagehens certainly have a bright and exciting season ahead of them.

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