LA VERNE, Calif. – After a long and challenging season, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's water polo team closed its final game of the year on a high note with a 13-11 victory over Chapman University on Sunday afternoon. It was a solid team effort all-around for the Athenas (11-20, 5-6) as both the defense and offense played at a high level, making proper adjustments against the Panthers (7-22, 4-7) to stay one step ahead. Senior Shannon Golden (CMC) was the x-factor of the match, scoring two clutch goals to give the Athenas the lead while junior Mariah Mastrodimos (SC) made clutch saves to keep her team in the game for a long stretch. With this victory, the Athenas finish the SCIAC Tournament in fifth place.
Junior Jessica Gaffney (CMC) opened up the scoring for CMS with a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net, but the Panthers responded back after junior Roxy Kiessling (CMC) earned an exclusion with a power play goal with 5:23 left on the clock. The Panthers took the lead a minute later with a goal from Elaine Peterson. Freshman Aracelia Aldrete (CMC) almost caught a break in front of the net, swimming over her defender to get an open look, but was yanked hard from behind, drawing the exclusion. Sophomore Krystal Sung (CMC) took advantage of the exclusion and scored from the left wing to make it 2-2. Chapman took one back again, but with 2:20 left in the period, sophomore Christine Hu (CMC) threaded a long pass between several defenders and right into the hands of Aldrete. Immediately after the catch, Aldrete turned around and scored past the helpless keeper. However, in the final minute of the period, Chapman scored twice to take a 5-3 lead.
The Panthers scored quickly into the second period, but the Athenas responded with more aggressive defending and creating chances on the counterattack. With 6:06 on the clock, sophomore Emma Choy (CMC) lobbed a flawless through pass over several defenders to her classmate Claire Baxter (CMC) who finished without hesitation. On the following possession, the Athenas forced a turnover and found sophomore Tess van Hulsen (CMC) on the fast break. Van Hulsen patiently set herself up in front of the keeper and found the net to put the Athenas within one.
Emily Fong tried to protect the Panthers' lead with an insurance goal, but CMS responded with nifty ball movement to get back in the game. With 2:11 left in the half, the Athenas executed a brilliant 1-2-3 pass, as Baxter found sophomore Kaitlyn Eng (HMC) at the right wing. Eng flicked a quick pass without hesitation to Golden who was in front the net. With just one touch, Golden found the net to put CMS within one. Eng pulled through with 1:10 remaining in the half, when she hit a hard shot in front the keeper. The ball ricocheted off the keeper, and Eng lunged forward to poke the loose ball into the net to tie the game. Chapman briefly took back the lead with a penalty, but with 11 seconds left, Gaffney found Kiessling near the goal being covered by only one defender. Kiessling bumped her defender away with her back to create space and launched one past the keeper to level the score at eight apiece at halftime.
The third period was testy as neither side was able to gain a significant advantage over one another. The two teams scored two goals each, heading into the final period. Immediately after winning the final sprint, the Athenas quickly moved the ball before the Panthers could set their defense up. Golden seized the an open look from mid-distance and fired a missile towards the net. The keeper managed to get her hands on the ball, but the shot was too much to handle as the all deflected into the net.
Van Hulsen helped the Athenas to a two-goal lead with 4:51 left in the game after scoring on a fast break. The defense held on in the final minutes while Mastrodimos made several key saves on the closeout. With a minute left in the game, the Panthers resorted to a full press. Eng quickly read through the pressure and sparked the counterattack by finding Kiessling racing towards the net by herself. The sophomore hurled the pass and Kiessling sealed the game on the break.
By Young Kim
Sports Information Assistant
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