The Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team is on a mission this season to win the SCIAC Championship and reach the legendary NCAA tournament at Harvard University in mid-May. So far, they’re on the right track.
The Sagehens secured a victory in their SCIAC opener on Wednesday evening with a 6-2 victory over the University of La Verne Leopards. They followed their strong outing with a narrow 12-11 loss to Azusa Pacific University in the second of their back-to-back matches of the night. The Hens are 1-0 in regular-season SCIAC matches, with a 7-8 overall record.
The Sagehens were undefeated in SCIAC last season, but five of the seven SCIAC wins came in overtime, including their victory over La Verne. This season, the Hens plan to avoid making their games unnecessarily nerve-wracking and lengthy. Their goal is to maintain SCIAC dominance, minus the overtimes. They started SCIAC play on the right foot this season, putting away their first conference game in regulation.
When the Sagehens faced the Leopards in late January, the final score was 14-11 in an all-out, offensive battle. This time, the Sagehens won through a defensive battle. The Hens jumped out 3-0 in the first quarter, and the defense held throughout the game, limiting the Leopards to one goal in the second quarter and another in the third.
Unfortunately, the Sagehens could not carry their defensive momentum from the La Verne game into the Azusa Pacific match. They trailed early in the first, falling 4-1 by the end of the first quarter. The Hens made numerous comeback attempts, but the Cougars managed to hang onto the 12-11 victory.
“We have focused on defense and creating a counterattack,” Head Coach Alex Rodriguez said of recent successes against La Verne on Wednesday, Connecticut College on Tuesday, and during the Convergence tournament last weekend. “We’re getting everyone on the same page.”
The number of Sagehens who pose as a scoring threat is rapidly expanding. Sallie Walecka PO ’15 and Carter Grant PZ ’15 had their first goals of the season in the Sagehens’ 13-1 victory over Connecticut when a total of eight Sagehens scored. Megan Snow PO ’16 also logged her first goal of the season against Azusa Pacific on Wednesday.
The Sagehens split their first four home games at the Convergence tournament with two wins and two losses, with a 9-8 win over California Baptist University, a 9-6 win over Concordia University Irvine, a 17-7 loss to sixth-ranked University of California, Irvine, and a 14-3 loss to California State University, Long Beach.
The 9-8 victory over the Cal Baptist Lancers on Friday night marked the crowning moment of the Sagehens’ preseason. The Sagehens took the lead in the first half but led by only two and could not widen the gap. Halfway through the third quarter, with the Sagehens leading 6-4, the Lancer counterattack kicked in, and Cal Baptist scored three in a row before Sarah Westcott PO ’15 broke their momentum and tied the score at seven going into the fourth quarter. Westcott scored again on the first Sagehen possession of the fourth quarter and then a final time in a beautiful high-corner lob shot late in the shot clock of the Sagehens’ next possession. The Lancers scored once in the fourth quarter, but goalie Sarah Tuggy’s PO ’13 11th save of the game in the remaining two minutes. A steal by Alyssa Woodward PZ ’15 in the last possession sealed the victory.
Lefty Katy Schaefer PZ ’16 led the Sagehen offensive in the match against Concordia with four goals, followed by Mahalia Prater-Fahey PO ’15 with two.
UC Irvine jumped ahead early in the first quarter to take a 5-0 lead, but the Sagehens quickly adjusted to their opponent, matching the Anteaters goal-for-goal in the second quarter to make the score 8-3 at halftime. Woodward carried the Sagehen offense, scoring five of their seven goals, and Tuggy clocked 14 saves. Woodward also scored all three Sagehen goals against Long Beach State.
“We were successful against [UC Irvine’s] second group,” Rodriguez said, regarding that second quarter.
UC Irvine may be of a higher caliber than the Sagehens, but Rodriguez pointed out many areas in which the Sagehens could realistically improve by using the UC Irvine style of play as an example. Such is the value of playing against top-notch, Division I competitors.
The Sagehens are back in action tomorrow for two games in Riverside, followed by four games the following weekend at Arizona State University to close out Spring Break.