Making great strides to become one of the top teams in all of Division III, the women’s water polo team finished fourth at the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships winning one of three games April 29 through May 1 at Haldeman Pool in Claremont.
Earning the No. 4 seed in the tournament, the Leopards (12-16, 3-4) showed just how tough they are after losing a thrilling third-place overtime match against Occidental 9-7 in the final game of the tournament.
The Leopards and Eagles ended regulation with the score tied at seven.
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Unfortunately for the Leopards the momentum was not on their side as Occidental held them scoreless in the extra period while scoring two goals of their own.
In the match, the Leopards received three goals from Jessica Egbert and two from Renee Moyer, while getting one goal each from Kristin McKown and Marianna Garcia.
“We played great as a team this tournament,” head coach Tim Hugar said.
“We battled each and every game and made each game a contest. We stepped up our level of play, unfortunately our opponent did a little bit more.”
Opening the tournament in fine fashion, the Leopards showed true team unity defeating Whittier 9-7, halting a late Poet rally in the final period to get the victory and revenge from a loss earlier in the season.
The Poets took care of business and defeated the Leopards 13-8 on April 13.
“It was a really exciting game and finish,” McKown said. “They are a really good team. They beat us earlier in the year so it was nice to turn the tables. It got us started on the right foot.”
In the victory, the Leopards were treated to an offensive explosion by junior McKown who finished the game with four goals leading them to victory.
Moyer and Garcia who both finished the match with two goals each respectively turned in offensive contributions to go along with freshmen Laura Larsen’s goal.
“Everybody played really well for us,” Hugar said. “The whole team elevated their game to another level, which made for a good tournament experience.”
With the victory, the Leopards were paired with Redlands, the regular season conference champion and the top seed in the tournament. The last time the two teams met, the Leopards put up a fight and narrowly lost 6-4 to the Bulldogs on April 2.
Not being fazed by Redlands’ undefeated record, the Leopards once again gave them all they could handle, coming out the short end of things once again losing a chance to be in the title game, dropping a slim 8-5 decision.
“We gave them all we had,” Egbert said. “We played our hearts out but it came down to the little things and they proved why they are the champions and why they went undefeated.”
Once again the Fab Five consisting of Egbert, McKown, Moyer, Larsen and Garcia each finished the match scoring one goal apiece to finish the game.
With another successful season in the books, the women’s water polo team point to the future and look forward to greater achievements in the coming seasons.
“We have a great core nucleus coming back,” Hugar said. “We have to continue making improvements and bring in some good recruits to reach our goal of winning a conference title.”
With their victory over Whittier, the women earned selection into the 2005 Division III Women’s Water Polo Championships, which will be held today through Sunday in Claremont.
The Leopards will meet Wheaton College (IL) in its opening round match at 11:30 a.m. followed by a 5:45 p.m. contest against Cal State East Bay.
On Saturday, the women will square off with conference rival Pomona-Pitzer and then play the remaining matches based on bracket standings.
Jonathan Corral can be reached at email@example.com.