WHITTIER, CA. - The Pomona-Pitzer women's water polo team pulled out a historic 14-12 victory against the China National Team in their first match at the Whittier Mini Tournament on Saturday morning. It was the program's first ever victory against China. The team followed up with a lopsided 18-10 goalfest over Division II Cal State Monterey Bay to go 3-1 overall this season.
Pomona-Pitzer def. China 14-12
China entered the match, coming off a pair of convincing victories over No. 8 University of Michigan, defeating the Wolverines 13-10 and 11-4 last weekend before heading to Whittier. The Sagehens on the other hand were looking for their first record victory against China, let alone a national team. Several clutch moments from seniors Morgan McCracken and Jocelyn Castro proved to be the deciding factor as they spurred the Sagehens' offense, combining for nine goals against China.
"We came out strong, but China came back," said Associate Head Coach Alex La. "Kudos to our girls for being resilient and holding on for the win. We never want to give up a lead, but this game revealed the character of our team as they held on and came back."
Although the game was a rare opportunity to compete against an international powerhouse, the Sagehens were not afraid to show off their arsenal in the pool. The match turned out to be a fiercely competitive affair as the two teams refused to turn the match over to one another. The two teams combined for 19 exclusions and were evenly matched on the offensive end as China barely outshot the Hens 29-28.
McCracken led the Hens with five goals while Castro scored four, including two in the final minute of the match to seal the victory. McCracken also had three steals while Kahea Kahaulelio finished the match with two goals and two steals. Mei Xiaohan led China with five goals and two steals while Xiao Chen netted three times and had three steals.
The Sagehens got off to a hot start on the offensive end, moving the ball fluidly and taking advantage of China's early mistakes. Castro scored the opening goal with 5:42 remaining in the first period before China tied it up with a power play goal just 40 seconds later. With 4:01 left in the first, McCracken converted a 5 meter penalty after an exclusion from Xiaohan and a minute after, Nohea Kahaulelio made it 4-1. In the final 30 seconds, Kahea padded the lead to make it 5-1.
Pomona-Pitzer refused to take their foot off the gas, scoring three straight during the second period to pad an 8-3 lead, but China managed to cut the deficit in half thanks to a solo goal from Xiaohan.
China made several key adjustments in the second half, and began to threaten the Sagehens' lead. After Anna Yu and Natalie Hill scored back-to-back in the third period to build a 10-5 lead, China broke out with a 4-0 run to close the gap within one.
At the start of the final period, China tied the game just 17 seconds into the period and then took the lead with 6:41 remaining. The Hens fought back thanks to some masterful scoring by McCracken as the senior scored on a power play and then on even strength to take back the lead 12-11. With 2:41 remaining, Deng Zewen tied the game for China on a power play, but Castro refused to let the game go to extra, ripping a shot off the post in the face of pressure with 1:02 left on the clock to take the lead. In the final seconds of the match, Natasha Rosenthal found Castro on the power play in the post and the senior unleashed a backhand shot in front of goal to seal landmark victory 14-12.
Pomona-Pitzer def. CSUMB 18-10
Jocelyn Castro maintained her torrid scoring form, leading the team with five goals in their second match of the day against Division II Cal State Monterey Bay. The Sagehens overwhelmed the Otters on both ends of the pool, outshooting the Otters 38-21 and collecting 24 total steals as a team. Natalie Hill did an excellent job frustrating the Otters, nabbing seven steals and delivering seven assists while McCracken, Anna Yu, and Samantha Martinez each had hat tricks.
The two looked fairly level in the opening period, trading goals to end the first period tied at three apiece. The Otters took the lead just 30 seconds into the second period, but the Sagehens responded with back-to-back goals by Castro and Yu to take a 5-4 lead. After the Otters came within one with a goal by Nicole Lyckfors, the Sagehens responded in a huge way, shutting out the Otters for 13 minutes and 34 seconds. The Hens broke out for a giant 11-0 run that went from the second period and extended into final minute of the third, during which seven different players found the back of the net.
The Otters responded with a 4-0 rally that extended into the final period, but it was not enough to come back from the huge deficit.
Up Next: The Sagehens will head to Thousand Oaks, California to compete in the Tina Finali Invitational hosted by Cal Lutheran on Friday, February 23. They will face Fresno Pacific at 10 a.m. and Azusa Pacific at 2:45 p.m.