Back-to-Back Losses to Whittier, Chapman Send Athenas into Fourth Place in SCIAC

Although the
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s water polo team (11-17, 8-3 SCIAC) ended their
season last weekend at the SCIAC Championships, they did not go down
without a fight.

[season] motto was to go hard in the fourth quarter,” attacker Jess
Gaffney CM ’18 said.

After exerting
much physical and mental energy in a 6-8 loss to Whittier College (21-14, 9-2 SCIAC) April 25, the Athenas didn’t have enough left to outlast
Chapman University (14-5, 6-5 SCIAC) in the third-place game and fell to the
Panthers 10-9 after a close back-and-forth match to finish the season in fourth
place in the SCIAC.

The Athenas
started off the tournament on a high note, defeating California Lutheran
University (9-20, 5-7 SCIAC) 13-7 April 24. While almost everyone
made it into the lineup, Gaffney stood out with three goals, two of which came
in the first quarter to give CMS an early 3-1 lead.

“It did give
me a lot of confidence,” Gaffney said. “In the Cal Lu game we found
the back of the net really well and it reaffirmed our strength in the position
we were in. That might be why we went into the Whittier game confidently
and [are] already looking ahead to playing Pomona-Pitzer.”

With seven different players scoring goals and five
Athenas scoring two or more, the Cal Lutheran game was a true team effort. 

However, the Athenas were not as fortunate on
offense against Whittier the next day. After a 12-minute drought, utility
player Haley Conner CM ’15 finally scored one for CMS with just under four
minutes left in the third quarter. As one of five seniors on the team, Conner played with her heart on the line.

“I just got
to the point where nothing else mattered and you just have to take those
chances,” Conner said. “I was playing for my teammates and for my
coach. I gave it everything I had and unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”

The Whittier
match, which proved to be the most physically demanding and aggressive match of
the tournament, featured a style of play that many team members said they weren’t used to. Still, CMS was able to fight back from a four-goal deficit
when, with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter, Gaffney scored
two back-to-back goals to bring her team to within just one at 6-7. The Athenas’ efforts
were not quite enough, though, and Whittier ultimately came out ahead after
netting a goal just 20 seconds after Gaffney’s.

“In every
game we played really well, but I think we played more cohesively as a team
against Whittier and Chapman,” Gaffney said. “Coming out in the
fourth quarter in the Whittier game we had the most energy out of all the games
we played and that showed in our comeback fourth quarter.”

The physical toll
and disappointment from the Whittier loss contributed to the
Athenas’ loss in the Chapman game, though they continued fighting until the end.

The score
flip-flopped between the two teams the entire match. Utility
player Brittany Arneson CM ’17 led the attack with three goals and driver Rose
Koper CM ’15 had two of her own, one of which tied the game at 9-9 with 43
seconds left. It looked like the Athenas could pull away, but
Chapman scored the winning goal just five seconds later, earning them third
place in SCIAC. 

“It’s always
very challenging after coming back from a loss and having that motivation to
play well in that final game,” Conner said. “People were taking it
seriously, but definitely mental exhaustion and disappointment made it
challenging to come back.”

The loss marks
the final career game for Conner, Koper, goalie Allison Hu CM ’15, driver Sarah
Gonzalez CM ’15 and central defender LillyBelle Deer CM ’15. Though their
season ended with two hard-fought losses, the Athenas still see the positive in
their season as a whole.

“While it was
sad, I don’t think it was detrimental to our season,” Gaffney said
about the weekend losses. “Our last two games don’t speak to the heart and
soul of the team. We really wanted it and there was no laziness or doubt in the
last two games, which is something that had been consistent all year.”

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