Women’s water polo setting tone for conference play
The stands were nearly full at the Schaal Aquatic Center as water polo fans watched the UC Davis women’s water polo team edge out a tough number 7 UC Irvine, 9-8 on April 7 in a measure-for-measure exchange. Neither team was able to extend its lead by more than one in this matchup. The Aggies now have a 17-8 overall record and are 2-1 in Big West Conference play.
The victory over the Anteaters followed a tough road loss to a number 5-ranked Hawai’i exactly one week before, 12-7.
“We had a good week of practice,” head coach Jamey Wright said of the team’s preparation. “Irvine is always good, last time we played them they [beat] us here at conference a year ago.”
Wright noted the required effort of the team because of the exclusions early on in the game.
“The vibe of the team is strong, their work ethic is amazing and everyone is contributing,” Wright said. “In this game there was exclusion, exclusion, exclusion and people had to come in that usually don’t come in right away.”
Senior center Greta Kohlmoos lead the Aggies in scoring with three goals, making this her second straight game with a hat-trick.
Sophomore attacker Kathleen Schafle took nine total shots on goal and scored twice, stole the ball twice and had one assist.
Sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Golding had a total of 12 saves and three steals.
Junior utility Annie Kutt was the first Aggie to put points on the board in the first quarter at 6:56, but the Anteaters’ Corrida Toledo answered back about a minute later.
The teams then both played at a fairly even tempo and exchanged goals at an even rate, ending up tied with three goals apiece at the end of the first period.
It took a while for both teams to find their groove in the second period. The Anteaters scored first at even strength in the second period after over half of the second period elapsed at 3:50, making it 4-3 in favor of the Anteaters.
Kohlmoos answered with an even-strength goal on a breakaway to tie it up at four with 2:57 to go. But then the Anteaters managed to get in front of the Aggie defense and take the lead 5-4, with 1:07 left in the second period.
With nearly a minute to go before the first half expired, Wright decided to put Kohlmoos back in. Wright’s instinct was correct, as Kohlmoos scored an even-strength goal with 39 seconds left to tie it up at five, earning herself a hat trick.
“It felt really good,” Kohlmoos said. “But it would have not been possible if my teammates hadn’t been working their butts off and making sure those opportunities were there, it felt good because the teamwork was just great today.”
It seemed the first half would end in a tie, but the Anteaters’ Toledo fouled an Aggie with 12 seconds to go in the red-zone. This gave Schlafe a penalty shot, which she skipped into the left corner and gave the Aggies the lead going into the second half of play.
The Anteaters set up scoring chances that were broken up by the Aggies’ concerted effort on defense toward the center.
“Today our teamwork was amazing — our communication on defense,” Kohlmoos said. “And not letting their center get shots off, and working hard to foul and drop back”
Irvine started out the second half quick with a goal on a power-play to tie it up at six, and the Anteaters followed it up at 5:05 with a go-ahead goal, putting the Aggies behind 7-6.
The following Aggie possession had Schlafe nearly losing the ball, which she narrowly recovered as the shot clock ticked. Kutt eventually fired from a distance, only to have her shot blocked before reaching the five-meter mark.
Junior utility Emily Byrne then put the team’s efforts back on track with her first goal of the game at 4:21.
After the teams traded possessions, senior utility Carla Tochinni gave the Aggies the go-ahead goal with 2:58 to go in the third, 8-7. This was the last goal of the third period.
In the fourth period, the Anteaters tied it up, 8-8 with 4:38 to go in regulation. After managing to break up a play at the center, the Anteaters swam down and fired a shot. Golding tipped the ball, preserving the tie.
Wright noted one of the keys to victory was making sure the Anteaters couldn’t score easily.
“When you keep a team with that many weapons to eight goals, it’s pretty fantastic,” Wright said.
With 2:41 left to go in regulation, Wright called a timeout to strategize with the women.
When play started again, sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Golding scanned the pool for openings and possible holes in the defense, and then passed it to Schafle.
Schafle fired left and found a narrow part of the goal near the bottom in what would be the game-winning goal, leaving 2:28 on the clock in the fourth quarter.
This play, according to Wright, was added to the women’s arsenal only two days before the game.
“She’s such a good shooter,” Wright said. “You have got to find ways to get her the ball, and that worked out pretty good.”
From that point on, the Aggies switched to a defensive posture to prevent quick Anteater shots on goal.
The women will travel to southern California to play CSU Northridge on April 14 and UC Santa Barbara on April 15.
“From here, it can only go up,” Koohlmos said. “This win is going to really boost our confidence. We’re going to go in really hard against CSUN and UC Santa Barbara. We’re not going to accept a loss, we’re going to keep pushing through.”
Written by: Bobby John — firstname.lastname@example.org