Fledgling Sagehen Squad Takes Down Two Division I Teams
At the beginning of the first match last Saturday against Cal State Bakersfield, Head Coach Alex Rodriguez explained what he expected out of the team during the tournament.
“I want these games to be conditioning for us,” he said. No matter how the games turned out, he wanted to use the weekend to build the team and help everyone learn to work together and get more game experience—things that will be crucial to the Sagehens’ success this year, given that they have only ten players, many of whom are new to the sport.
Nobody predicted that they would go on to defeat Bakersfield, who are ranked among the top 25 teams in Division I women’s water polo.
This past weekend, the Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team drove about an hour and a half northwest to Thousand Oaks for the Cal Lutheran University Spring Classic, held at the Cal Lutheran pool and the Oaks Christian High School pool. Over two days, the Sagehens played four matches and, unexpectedly, swept all four.
The wins came as a bit of a surprise, but they were certainly welcome. Many people expected this to be a rebuilding year for the Sagehens, especially after their disappointing results at the Redlands Mini-Tournament two months ago.
But the Hens are finally finding that nice combination of skill and teamwork that wasn’t quite there in January. Now that the team’s five swimmers are focused entirely on water polo, they’re remembering the dynamics of team sports.
The Hens narrowly snuck by Cal State Bakersfield by a final score of 11-10. The first quarter averaged one goal per minute of play, as each team scored four goals in the eight minutes of the first quarter. Tamara Perea PZ ’11 scored three of those four, and Kerstin Henshall PZ ’14 contributed the other. The scoreboard registered a 4-4 tie after the first quarter.
The Hens gained a much more comfortable lead in the second quarter. Perea added two more goals, Henshall scored one, Annie Oxborough-Yankus PZ ’12 scored one, and the team gave up only one goal to Bakersfield. Halftime, Sagehens up 8-5. Three more Sagehen goals were scored in the third quarter, two coming from Perea and one from Perri Hopkins PZ ’12. Bakersfield also scored three in the quarter, preventing the Hens from extending their lead.
The fourth quarter was considerably more nerve-wracking, as the Hens were unable to finish a single goal for the rest of the game. Luckily, the defense held Bakersfield to two goals, making it an 11-10 Sagehen victory. Goalie Sarah Tuggy PO ’14 clocked 12 saves throughout the game to stave off the Roadrunners’ comeback.
P-P’s second victory on Saturday—9-5 against another Division I team, Villanova—allowed onlooking Sagehen supporters to keep their fingernails intact. The Sagehens went up quick 3-1 in the first quarter, with Perea contributing one and Oxborough-Yankus two. The second quarter proved uneventful but tiring due to the lack of post-goal breathers, since Perea added just one and the Hens held Villanova scoreless. In the third quarter, Perea once again added one to the board, as did Hopkins, and Villanova managed to keep up by answering with two goals of their own. Finally, Perea and Hopkins extended the lead in the fourth quarter and Villanova couldn’t keep up.
The Hens received a break from the intense chlorination in their eyes that night, only to come back the next morning and face St. Francis, a predominantly international squad out of New York. The Hens started off with a narrow lead, with two goals from Oxborough-Yankus and one from Emma Huang PZ ’11, while St. Francis’ imported players scored twice. Perea’s two goals in the second increased the lead a bit, so that the Hens were ahead 5-3 at halftime. Perea and Henshall scored in the third to extend the lead, and after both teams scored four goals in the fourth quarter (with two each from the Hens’ top scorers Perea and Oxborough-Yankus), the final score came out to 12-9.
The last game of the tournament was against Chapman, a fellow Division III school. Hopkins carried the team on her back in the first quarter, scoring three goals to give the Hens 3-0 lead. The Hens kept going strong in the second quarter with one goal each from Oxborough-Yankus, Huang, and Henshall, while holding Chapman to one goal. Tamara added another two to the scoreboard in the third, to which Chapman had no reply. To close out the last game of the tournament, Oxborough-Yankus scored the final goal for a 9-3 victory. As far as Rodriguez remembers, this is the first time ever that the Sagehens have gone 4-0 in the Cal Lu Classic.
But this is no time for the Sagehens to get complacent. Now ranked #2 in Division III, P-P will play four more games today and tomorrow to start off spring break. Two of these opponents are ranked higher than Cal State Bakersfield in Division I. They face #10 UC Irvine, #12 Long Beach State, Colorado State, and Azusa Pacific University. This weekend will certainly be another test of the Sagehens’ endurance.