The Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team extended their winning streak to three games this past weekend, as they won both matches of a doubleheader at the Whittier College Mini-Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 10. The Mini-Tournament, one of a series of events on the calendar before the start of the regular conference season, provided the Sagehens a chance to develop cohesion as they seek a three-peat for the SCIAC title.
P-P’s first game of the day came against California State University, San Bernardino—a Division II school, one division higher than the Sagehens. The gap in divisions, however, didn’t manifest itself in the water, where P-P controlled proceedings from the very beginning. The team’s attacking faculties were on point and the defense was stout, allowing P-P to take a 6-1 lead by the end of the first quarter.
It was clear that CSUSB would need a far more polished second quarter effort if they were to bring themselves back into the match, but, unfortunately for the Coyotes, such a comeback never seemed likely to materialize. Although P-P only barely won the second quarter, the Sagehens were up 11-4 going into halftime, looking very much in control of affairs.
The second half was a much quieter one from both schools, with both teams seemingly saving some energy for their respective second matches. The final score ended up 17-6 in favor of the Sagehens.
Under coach Alexander Rodriguez, the Sagehens schedule many teams from higher divisions during the regular season. That, combined with the team’s experienced core, helps contribute greatly to the team’s success, said attacker Sarah Westcott PO ’15, a member of the side’s sizable cadre of juniors.
“We are all very committed; most of the team has been playing together for three years, so we know each others’ style of play a lot, and we play the most DI teams compared to other DIII schools, so we are the most experienced in the SCIAC,” Westcott said.
In their second game of the Whittier Mini-Tournament, P-P faced off against the more familiar University of Redlands, one of the stronger teams in the SCIAC and potentially a major threat to the Sagehens’ title aspirations. While this particular meeting lacked some competitive bite, given that the result does not count against either team’s conference records, both teams were eager to demonstrate their intentions for the season ahead.
Redlands entered the match after having played a DII school themselves, although their result was not quite as positive as P-P’s against CSUSB: the Cougars of Azusa Pacific University dominated the Redlands Bulldogs 18-6.
Some residual low confidence and uncertain form seemed to affect Redlands in the early stages as P-P, looking to wrap up the day with two wins, raced out to a 6-2 lead. The Bulldogs’ goalkeeper, Julie Lupfer, was largely responsible for preventing the margin from getting any wider in the early stages.
Lupfer’s efforts nearly paid off for her team: after being second-best for much of the game, Redlands rattled off three straight scores while they were down 4-8 to make matters more tense. P-P’s defense put up a solid stifling effort in the game’s dying minutes, however, and the Sagehens held on for the 8-7 finish.
As a rehearsal for competitive conditions, it was a successful weekend for the Sagehens, who have been forced to use the early part of the season for tactical integration and physical conditioning as several team members fulfill commitments for the P-P women’s swim team.
“The early matches are a great way to get in shape and let the freshmen get acquainted with the team’s style of play,” Westcott said. “Basically everyone is just trying to get back into shape and work on playing at a higher level than we see in the SCIAC.”
The Sagehens’ early-season fine-tuning will continue next weekend, when they head to Riverside for the California Baptist University Lancer Invitational, another popular regional tournament. P-P is scheduled to play three times over the course of the weekend, including a Sunday afternoon rematch with Redlands and a matchup against Azusa Pacific, who routed University of La Verne in addition to Redlands last weekend before falling to host Whittier.