CMS Women's Water Polo Falls on Short End of 9-8 Defeat to La Verne

The four CMS seniors were honored prior to the match as part of Senior Day
The four CMS seniors were honored prior to the match as part of Senior Day

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's water polo team honored its four seniors before the game, and junior Aracelia Aldrete scored her 100th career goal, but La Verne spoiled the occasion by breaking an 8-8 tie with a goal with 1:14 to play and capturing a 9-8 win over the Athenas on Saturday at Axelrood Pool.

With the win, La Verne takes over sole possession of third place in the SCIAC at 8-4, while dropping the Athenas down into a tie for fourth at 7-5 with Whittier. The top four teams in the league receive postseason bids, which will make the final week of home games with Redlands (Wednesday, 7 p.m.) and Pomona-Pitzer (Saturday, 11 a.m.) crucial to the CMS playoff hopes. 

Aldrete came into the game with 98 goals in her career and scored her second to reach the 100 milestone on a 6-on-5 with 5:06 to go to close La Verne's lead to 8-7. Freshman Alex Szymczak then scored her third of the game, all of which tied the score in the second half, off an assist from Emily McElroy to make it an 8-8 contest with 2:53 still to play. 

The Leopards earned a 6-on-5 opportunity with 1:31 to go and called timeout to set up a play. With the penalty clock winding down, Ilene Guerrero got into the teeth of the CMS defense and took a shot that deflected off a defender's arm and re-directed past freshman goalie Jessica Salaz to put the Leopards ahead 9-8. 

CMS had two chances to tie, but La Verne's defense made both chances difficult. Aldrete missed wide under pressure with 46 seconds left, and after the Leopards killed the shot clock and ceded possession to CMS with 11 seconds on the clock, sophomore Amelia Ayala was forced to shoot from long range and had her last-ditch effort saved just before the final buzzer. 

The game began as a defensive struggle as neither team scored in the first quarter. Aldrete finally broke the ice with 7:12 left in the second quarter, her 99th career goal, but it would turn out to be the only lead that CMS would have in the entire contest. La Verne went on a 3-0 run to pull ahead 3-1, but sophomore Anna Fry and freshman Maddy Menard each scored to pull CMS even at 3-3 at halftime. 

Guarina Garcia opened the second half scoring for La Verne, but Szymczak was able to answer with 4:46 left in the third to tie it 4-4. The two players alternated goals a second time, with Garcia giving La Verne a 5-4 lead and Szymczak tying it with 1:25 to go in the third. La Verne converted a 5-meter to take a 6-5 lead into the third, but sophomore Chandlyr Denaro scored on a rebound off the crossbar to knot it at 6-6. 

Emma Choy, one of the four seniors honored before the game, along with Krystal Sung, Kaitlyn Eng and Haley Gibbs, had three steals to tie for team-high honors with Szymczak, while also adding a team-high two assists. Salaz finished with eight saves for the Athenas in a losing effort. 

CMS will next host Redlands in a must-win contest on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. before meeting Sixth Street rival Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday in the regular season finale.