Win over Cal Poly was 5-4 comeback victory for crown
For the second straight year, the UC Davis Aggies women’s water polo club team defeated the Cal Polytechnic State University Mustangs in the Sierra Pacific Division to be crowned National Collegiate Club Champions. With this year’s win, the Aggies earn their fourth championship in five attempts as well as the second most National Championships in the title’s history. The team is three championships back from Cal Poly to tie for most national championship victories.
Neither team disappointed in the championship game, with both teams sprinting back and forth through the water throughout each quarter. The Mustangs jumped on the scoreboard quickly, placing two goals in the back of the net midway (4:49), and near the end (2:40) of the first quarter to lead the game 2-0.
It took until the end of the second quarter for the Aggie offense to show up, when Player of the Game, sophomore driver Sydney Preston, converted a goal with a man up at 2:31. Cal Poly continued to push through the end of the second and scurried a shot past the goal line with 12 seconds left, bringing its lead to 3-1.
Near the end of the third quarter (2:05), it seemed that the Aggies’ chance for a national championship was over, with Cal Poly using a power play opportunity to increase the gap between teams to 4-1. Recognizing themselves as a comeback team, the Aggies were not worried with the deficit, and continued to play their game.
“I think one of our teammates said during a timeout that they weren’t nervous at all and that we got this,” said senior defender and president of the club Sofia Caryotakis. “It was nervous excitement, and we all knew that we were there to get the job done and we did.”
Preston added that the team is known to battle back often in games.
“The culture of our team is that we are definitely a comeback team,” Preston said. “Being down 4-1 didn’t scare us because we had been there before, and we knew we would be able to pull through and just play.”
The calmness presented by the team allowed it to take control of the game with 1:42 left in the third, propelled by Caryotakis launching a shot in the net, decreasing their deficit to two. In a deja vu-like scenario with 12 seconds left in the third, UC Davis used a six-on-five opportunity to get one past the Mustang’s goalie, and bring the score to 4-3.
Beginning the fourth quarter was a battle between teams, until Preston secured her second goal of the game at 4:37 to tie the game at four. For Preston, it was the feeling of confidence from her teammates that attributed to her solid game performance
“It was really my teammates because the day before, none of my shots landed,” Preston said. “While we were warming up, I was passing, and I said ‘today is the day.’ Just having the confidence and having my teammates telling me not to worry because it was a new day helped.”
One minute later, the Aggies pushed the battle-back mentality to unload one final goal between the posts to finish the game 5-4, and earn National Club Championship status.
After the championship game finished, the 2018 Women’s National Collegiate Club Championship All-Tournament Team was announced. For Caryotakis, earning Most Valuable Player of the tournament was a huge honor attributed to the team as a whole.
“It really is just a testament to the program itself developing me so that I can help develop the team,” Caryotakis said. “It was a huge honor because that was a sum of 10 plus years of the sport and I wouldn’t have been able to get there without my teammates.”
Both Caryotakis and Preston feel that this championship victory attests to the success of the club water polo program as a whole, and are excited for what the future holds.
“Davis has always had a very strong water polo program at all levels,” Caryotakis said. “The sophomores and the juniors can step up and shape the program where it needs to go and it is already on the right trajectory.”
Preston added onto Caryotakis’ comments with excitement for the future of the team and the program.
“I was not only excited for winning the tournament but for the future,” Preston added. “We have a very young team and I am just excited for the freshman potential our team has and I am excited to see what next year holds.”
Written by: Ryan Bugsch — firstname.lastname@example.org