Though the record might not reflect it, the Claremont Convergence water polo tournament was a winning one for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athenas (5-6, 0-0 SCIAC).
To kick off the two-day tournament that took place on March 3-4, the team came out strong and won their first two games. The Athenas took down the California Institute of Technology Beavers (0-4, 0-0 SCIAC) 16-5, and then edged the Saint Francis University Red Flash (7-9 NEC-10) 8-7.
The game against SFU was a “redemption game,” said Krystal Sung CM ’19. The teams had met earlier in the season, but the Athenas lost a hard-fought game 10-7. This time, the Athenas jumped out to an early three-goal lead, but lost it when the Red Flash answered with three of their own and took a 6-4 lead late in the game.
Nevertheless, Aracelia Aldrete CM ’20 countered with two goals of her own, followed by the eventual game-winner from Jess Gaffney CM ’18.
However, the women were unable to sustain their first day success. They dropped both of Saturday’s games in an 11-8 loss to NCAA Division II’s California State University, Monterey Bay (6-7 CCAA) and a 10-4 loss to Azusa Pacific University (5-6 PacWest).
“Four games in two days is tough on everyone, so we just need to work on our mentality about pushing through when our bodies are tired,” said Tess van Hulsen CM ’19, who scored two goals on Friday. “Our team does a great job at coming out with intensity and putting some goals up, so I think we need to work on carrying that intensity through the entirety of the game.”
Unfortunately, the challenge of facing two Division II teams proved to be too much for the Athenas, who “put up a valiant effort,” Claire Baxter CM ’18 said.
Regardless of the disappointing losses, Athenas from every year managed to score goals and fill in for some key players who were not available.
“Every year team chemistry is huge, but this year it’s been different because we have so much depth,” Baxter said. “Everyone has chemistry with everyone else; it’s no longer that we have six core players. We have a core twelve. That’s going to carry us through SCIACs.”
The chemistry seen at the tournament was likely a sign of good things to come for the Athenas, who only graduated one senior last year. Their seniors, juniors and sophomores are now in at least their second year of playing together, adding to the cohesion of the group.
Julie Perfect, mother of Ellen Perfect CM ’17, who has been to the last four Convergence tournaments, said that this is the best team chemistry she’s seen the team have this early on in the season.
“That was really exciting to hear,” Sung said.
The Athenas will try to capitalize on that chemistry at the California Baptist University Invite on Friday, March 10.