Hens Strike Back in SCIAC Against Whittier

The Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team is back on the rise. After a shaky start to the SCIAC regular season that placed the defending SCIAC Champions at 2-2 in SCIAC, the Sagehens have defeated California State University, San Bernardino, and fellow SCIAC opponent Whittier College to catalyze a SCIAC winning streak that the Sagehens plan to carry through to the conference championship.

The 15-13 victory over CSUSB and the 10-7 victory over the Whittier Poets were just what the Sagehens needed to lift their position in SCIAC. Following losses to California Lutheran University and University of Redlands, and despite wins over University of La Verne and Occidental College, the Sagehens were in danger of dropping below fourth seed in SCIAC. Whittier was tied for first in SCIAC with an undefeated record before the Sagehens handed the Poets their first SCIAC loss at Haldeman Pool on Wednesday. 

The Sagehens led for the duration of the match against Whittier. The Hens came out strong in the first quarter, with Katy Schaefer PZ ’16 claiming the first two goals of the match for the Hens. Whittier scored one from a penalty shot, but Schaefer and Alyssa Woodward PZ ’15 answered with back-to-back goals to give the Hens a 4-1 lead right from the get-go in the first.

The Poets threatened a comeback, narrowing the Sagehen lead to 4-3 midway through the second quarter and to 5-4 following a goal from Chrissie Alving-Trinh PO’15 until Sarah Westcott PO’15 and Mahalia Prater-Fahey PO’15 killed the Poet momentum to give the Hens a 7-4 lead into halftime.

Woodward scored the first goal of the third quarter to solidify the Hens’ lead. The Hens played solid defense for the rest of the match to prevent another Whittier comeback. The crowning moment came when the Poets called a time-out to attempt a man-up play midway through the third quarter with the Hens leading 8-6. The Hens immediately shut down the play, came up with a steal to a 2-on-1 counterattack, topping it off with a catch-and-shoot goal by Vicky Gyorffy PO’15, who had just returned from a few games off due to injury. 

“Having [Gyorffy] back was huge,” Head Coach Alex Rodriguez said. Gyorffy’s defensive prowess and speed contributed greatly to the Sagehen success on Wednesday night. 

The Sagehens’ tenth and final goal came from another brilliant display of teamwork: when Westcott found Brenda Iglesias PO’14 wide-open on a drive.

“[Schaefer] gave us a good effort, especially early,” Rodriguez said. “I think the team came out with great energy.” Schaefer’s two goals to start the match played a major role in jumpstarting that energy the Sagehens kept throughout the game. 

One of the recent goals for the Hens includes making the team more offensive-minded, which the Sagehens achieved in their 15-13 offense-heavy victory over CSUSB last Saturday. Prater-Fahey led the Hens with five goals from the center set position, followed by Schaefer and Westcott with three goals each and Woodward with two. The final two goals came from Alving-Trinh and Carter Grant PZ ’15. Sarah Tuggy PO ’13 clocked 12 saves against the CSUSB offensive.

The strong Sagehen offensive came as a rebound from the Sagehens’ 7-6 loss to Redlands on April 3, which came as a bit of a shock to the Hens. The Hens trailed midway through the third quarter 6-3, and Rodriguez noticed the team showed little energy. Even when the Hens nearly came back from the deficit, they couldn’t pull off the win. 

But maybe the loss to Redlands was exactly the wake-up call the Hens needed to get themselves pumped for the CSUSB and Whittier matches—and hopefully into the remainder of the season.

The Hens face fellow SCIAC opponent Caltech on Saturday morning, followed by a trip to UCLA to face the number-four Bruins that afternoon.

Rodriguez looks forward to playing UCLA as the Bruins will be a taste of what the Hens would face should they emerge victorious in SCIAC and travel to Harvard for the NCAA Tournament in May. The winner of the SCIAC tournament enters NCAAs as the eighth seed in the tournament to face the first seed, typically a team like Stanford University or University of Southern California. 

The Sagehens face their final two SCIAC opponents in the regular season this upcoming week, with a trip to Chapman University Wednesday afternoon and the final home game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on April 20 at 11 a.m. at Haldeman Pool.

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