Athenas gain valuable team-building experience at Bucknell Invitational

Ellen Perfect
Ellen Perfect

LEWISBURG, Penn. – The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's water polo team saw plenty of positive takeaways this past weekend after travelling to Lewisburg, Penn. for the Bison Invitational. It was the first east coast trip for all members of the team. The Athenas faced against four formidable programs with differing styles over the course of two days and ended their trip with one win and three losses. Regardless of the result, the tournament provided the players the opportunity to understand their roles, build team chemistry, and find areas they need to improve.

The Athenas opened up their trip with a tight 10-7 loss against St. Francis (PA), a new Division I program. After freshman Aracelia Aldrete (CMC) moved CMS ahead 2-1 with a goal at the start of the second period, the Red Flash broke out with a 4-0 run to close out the half. Junior Roxy Kiessling (CMC) tried to keep the Athenas back in the game with a goal to start the third period, but Amber Rogers and Kelsey Gring scored back-to-back to extend the Red Flash's lead. The Athenas tried to rally back with a three-goal run, but it was not enough to close the gap.

Saturday's second game against Princeton presented a unique challenge for the Athenas as 2016 Rio Summer Olympics gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson started in goal for the Tigers. CMS took a 12-2 loss to the Tigers, scoring once against the Olympian in the second period thanks to senior Ellen Perfect (CMC). Princeton scored eight goals off counter attacks, but the Athenas played solid defense in half-court possessions and limited the Tigers to three goals.

CMS earned its first win of the tournament with a 12-5 blowout over Mercyhurst on Sunday morning. Battling the early morning start, the Athenas struggled in the first half and found themselves tied 4-4 at halftime. The Athenas showed more intensity in the second half and opened up the scoring in the third period with back-to-back penalty goals from junior Jessica Gaffney (CMC) and Kiessling. With a much-improved defense led by junior Claire Baxter (CMC), the Athenas managed to force six turnovers the entire game and held Mercyhurst to only one goal in the second half. The combination play on the counterattack between Aldrete, Gaffney, and sophomore Tess van Hulsen (CMC) led CMS to a 7-0 run, which was enough to put the game away.

A little more than an hour later, the Athenas wrapped up their tournament against Wagner, losing 16-3. Coming off a short break, the Athenas were overwhelmed in the opening half by Wagner's speed and pressure. However, CMS made several adjustments and played more aggressively in the second half, including three power-play goals to finish the trip.

The Athenas will head to Whittier on Saturday, Feb. 25 to face University of Toronto at 10:30 a.m. and Azusa Pacific at 2 p.m.

Box Scores: vs. St. Francis | vs. Princeton | vs. Mercyhurst | vs. Wagner 

By Young Kim
Sports Information Assistant

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