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Friday, April 19, 2024

Aggies fall short in overtime on senior day

UC Davis women’s water polo hosts last home game before Big West Conference Tournament

 

By ELOISE ENGS — sports@theaggie.org

 

On April 15, the UC Davis women’s water polo team hosted their last home game of the season against Long Beach State. The game was also the Aggies’ senior day where seven seniors were celebrated for their contributions to the team throughout the years. The game was close throughout the four quarters. After a tie at the end of regular play, the game went to overtime, in which the Aggies were defeated by one goal.

UC Davis went into their final home game ranked No. 10 in the conference rankings. They faced a strong offensive team, Long Beach State, who was ranked No. 6. The Aggies started off strong, gaining a a 4-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. Sixth-year graduate student and captain Ally Clague scored two of those goals.

“After the first quarter, the team and myself were feeling extremely pumped,” Clague said. “Especially because Long Beach State plays fast and physical, our goal going into this game was to set the tone in the first quarter and control the flow.”

 Clague continued, “Long Beach is having a strong season, just coming off of a big win against Cal [Berkeley]. For us to go out and dominate them in the first quarter was a huge morale boost. We were not having the perfect game, and mistakes were made even in the first quarter offensively and defensively, but being in control of the momentum put us in a great position to win the game.”

The Aggies maintained their lead in the waning minutes of the first half, and to close out the second quarter, fourth-year center Noëlle Wijnbelt scored the Aggies’ fifth goal. 

“Going into the second half we all really had to keep our composure and remember that we still had a whole second half to go,” Wijnbelt said. “There is always excitement when you’re up against a team that is ranked higher than you, but we just had to remember to focus on our defense first and then capitalize on offense.”

After Long Beach State won the sprint at the beginning of the third quarter, the Beach made a comeback, bringing the score to 6-5 in favor of the Aggies. With six minutes left in the third quarter, Clague responded with a goal, making the score 7-5. The score was back and forth throughout the middle of the third quarter, with UC Davis’s second-year attacker Kelly Hungerford scoring the Aggies’ eighth goal. Long Beach answered back in the final three minutes of the third quarter, scoring three goals and putting them ahead of the Aggies 8-9. With 13 seconds left in the third quarter, the Aggies tied the game.

“The team’s momentum did not shift after Long Beach State’s goals in the third quarter because I knew we could still win,” Hungerford said. “I think the team was still confident because in a sport like water polo, you have to have confidence if you want to dominate the other team. You also need to show confidence for your team, to show them that you still feel like the game is winnable.” 

The Aggies’ confidence was running high going into the last quarter of the game. The fourth quarter started off slow, without a single point scored until the final two-and-a-half minutes of the quarter. Hungerford assisted sixth-year graduate student and attacker Alyssa Lengtat to put the Aggies up by one on a power play. However, on Long Beach State’s next possession, they successfully tied the score, sending the game into overtime.

“I am the type of player who brings energy and gives it all I have while I am in a game,” Clague said. “I always tell my team that we need to ‘leave it all in the pool.’ During the team meeting before overtime, our coach, Kandace Waldthaler, gave corrections and words of encouragement and then I led us in our team cheer.”

The overtime consisted of two quarters. In the first, not a single player appeared on the score sheet until the final eight seconds, when Long Beach State scored. 

Twenty-five seconds into the final overtime quarter, Wijnbelt tied the score with an even-strength shot. 

“I think the goal got everyone excited and made us remember that we were still in the game and we needed to get a stop on the defensive end,” Wijnbelt said. “My goal was a team effort and I would not have gotten that goal without the initial counter-attack to offense as well as the pass that turned into a goal for us.”

Following Wijnbelt’s heroic shot to tie the game, both teams kept the game leveled, each scoring another goal. With only five seconds left in the game, Long Beach State drew an exclusion, resulting in a powerplay goal that put them up by one and ended the game 12-13.

“We all played really well, which is a good feeling heading into the last individual conference game in Hawaii and then the conference championships. Of course, it is not fun to lose, but we all played really well, and we were on the same page for the whole game, which, in my opinion, is a better way to lose,” Wijnbelt said. “I think we are all really excited for the last few games, and this game definitely set us in a cohesive and confident mindset to potentially play Long Beach again.”

Following the game, the senior day ceremony took place, recognizing Clague, Makenna Ferguson, Lengtat, Sophia Noble, Morgan Polterock, Wijnbelt and Hailey Williams. 

“There were a lot of emotions surrounding our final home game of the season, especially for the seniors,” Clague said. “I am a high-energy player, so the excitement surrounding senior day and Picnic Day with lots of fans and alumni coming to cheer us on played to my strengths.”

With high emotions and intensity during and after the last home game, the UC Davis Aggies are looking forward to traveling to Hawaii for their last game before their Big West Conference Championship in Santa Barbara during the weekend of April 28.

“After seeing the team’s performance against Long Beach on Saturday, I am even more confident and excited for the conference tournament taking place next weekend,” Clague said. “We are peaking as a team at just the right time, and I look forward to our next match.”

 

Written by: Eloise Engs — sports@theaggie.org