The Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team won their fourth SCIAC overtime match, this time against the Whittier Poets 11-10 in sudden death. The Sagehens enter the SCIAC tournament, beginning today, as the top seed.
While the Sagehens are undefeated in SCIAC and Division III opponents, four of their seven SCIAC victories were won in overtime. Looks like all that swimming conditioning is paying off.
The Hens made the most of their speed to start the match against the Poets, when a string of counter attack goals quickly gave them a 6-1 lead in the first quarter. The Poets scored at the end of the quarter to bring the score to 6-2, where it would remain until the completion of the second quarter.
The Sagehens got off to a flying start offensively and successfully shut down the Poets in the second quarter defensively. They never regained that offensive momentum from the first quarter, but, as head coach Alex Rodriguez often says, “defense wins championships.”
Unfortunately the Hens could not contain the Poets through the third quarter as well. The momentum shifted as the Poets scored five in a row in the third until Annie Oxborough-Yankus PZ ’12 scored to up the score to 7-7, bringing the Hens back on the offensive.
The Hens scored twice at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and it seemed that the Hens would be able to walk away without another overtime match, but Whittier fought back and left the score tied 9-9 going into the first set of overtime quarters. The Hens landed the first goal at the beginning of the first overtime period to go up 10-9. The next five minutes or so of play were scoreless on both sides, and again it seemed like game over until Whittier scored again in the last ten seconds of the second overtime period.
The Hens could not get close enough to the goal for a successful shot, and the game went into sudden death overtime for the first time in the Hens’ season.
Luckily, the Hens did not have to play defense in sudden death. The Hens gained first possession after Vicky Gyorffy PO ’15 won the sprint to begin the quarter. The Hens’ first shot was blocked out of bounds by the Poet goalie, returning the ball to P-P possession. An ejection foul gave the Hens a 6-5 advantage and a new shot clock.
As this shot clock was running out, Perri Hopkins PZ ’12 sent a shot into the low near-side corner of the goal. The shot was tipped by the goalie and dribbled into the goal, but Hopkins was halfway on defense before her teammates stopped to tell her that she scored the winning goal.
The victory dubs the Hens first in SCIAC and therefore the team everyone wants to beat. The long string of overtime games leaves every SCIAC team thinking that they can beat the Sagehens. The Hens themselves are hopeful that they have reached their overtime quota for the season and that they will come away with the championship without playing extra.
The Hens will first play eighth-ranked Caltech this afternoon. A victory in the first round places them in the semifinal match against the winner of the matchup between fourth-ranked Cal Lutheran and fifth-ranked CMS. If they win in the semis, they will likely play in the championship match against either second-ranked Redlands or third-ranked Occidental on Sunday.
Redlands and Occidental faced off in the championship last year, with Redlands taking the trophy in sudden death overtime. Of the teams currently seeded top three, the Sagehens plan to remain undefeated in SCIAC, Redlands looks to defend their title and Oxy wants to finally gain the championship after losses in the final match the past two seasons.
The Hens may be the number one seed, but they are not going to expect a breeze through the SCIAC tournament. Rodriguez reminds the team that upsets happen every year in the tournament, and “you don’t want to be that upset.”
The Hens have come a long way since the beginning of the season. They have played a total of 34 matches, more than any other SCIAC team. Their predominantly first year crew has scored the majority of their goals, and the abundance of games has helped them find their spot in the team’s offense and defense.
A SCIAC championship this weekend would secure Sagehen dominance in water polo this year, as the men’s team also won the tournament in the fall semester.
From this point forward, the Hens will have to remain undefeated in SCIAC and win the championship in order to participate in the legendary NCAA tournament that begins May 11 in San Diego.