The Pomona-Pitzer women’s water polo team dropped a pair of games last Saturday, Feb. 18, at Citrus College, and fell to 0-8 on the season. After being walloped 9-3 by No. 22 California State University, Northridge, the Sagehens lost a nailbiter to Azusa Pacific University 6-5.
In the first match, the Matadors opened up an 8-0 lead on the Sagehens, who didn’t score until the game was all but over. Against APU, however, head coach Alex Rodriguez said his team limited turnovers and improved their defense.
“We did a better job of controlling the ball and (were) able to control the flow of the game,” he said.
Christina Williamson PO ’17 scored with 2:13 remaining to put the Sagehens within one, and Rodriguez called a timeout with about 30 seconds left to design a play for Williamson and Jocelyn Castro PZ ’18.
Castro got a shot off with about five seconds left but couldn’t connect.
“The defense forced her into a more difficult shot,” Rodriguez said. “I would have liked to have tied it and gone to overtime for that experience. I don’t mind losing games, especially early on, but … having that close game would have been nice, and pulling out a win would’ve been nice too.”
Williamson and Morgan McCracken PO ’18 led the team with two goals each on Saturday, while goalkeeper Ahsha Earwood PZ ’17 had 13 saves across the two games.
The Sagehens have yet to win this season, but seven of their eight opponents—including 2016 national champion University of Southern California (No. 2), University of California, Santa Barbara (No. 9), and the University of the Pacific (No. 11)—are top national programs. Rodriguez is glad his team is getting that kind of experience early.
“I think it’s going to be a process of us learning,” he said. “It’s been exciting just to have the competition and see the girls get better. They’re working really hard—I think we train harder than anybody.”
By throwing his players in the deep end of the pool, Rodriguez hopes to toughen them up for league play later in the season.
In the USC game, “they let the fear, the nervousness get ahold of you, and when it comes down to it in all sports, it’s about confidence,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t want to get to the SCIAC championship game and them be ‘Oh my gosh.’ I want it to be another game. … They’re not going to be more scared of playing whoever it is in SCIAC finals than they were against USC.”
Rodriguez, who was on sabbatical last year to coach USA water polo, admits he is eyeing a conference title; his team finished third last year.
“That’s why you play sports, is to win,” he said. “It’ll be a challenge, but I think we have talent and the programming to be successful this year.”
The Sagehens will travel to Thousand Oaks for the Tina Finali Invitational this Friday, Feb. 24, and open conference play against California Institute of Technology at home Wednesday, March 8.