Water Polo Is National Runner-Up
For the fourth time in nine years, Occidental women’s water polo advanced to the finals of the Collegiate III Women’s Water Polo championship, losing to the University of Redlands 10-6 on May 7 at Thompson Aquatic Center in Redlands.
Occidental, Collegiate III champion in 2000, finishes the season at 16-14 overall, 5-5 SCIAC, and earns its third national runner-up finish. Redlands (19-14, 6-4 SCIAC) claimed its eighth national title, its third in five seasons.
Strong goaltending and timely offense carried the Tigers throughout the tournament. Occidental never trailed in a 12-8 victory over Wheaton (IL) in the opener and scored three unanswered goals in a 9-6 triumph over UC Santa Cruz in game two.
Sarah Sweney ’06 sealed the win over Wheaton with two fourth-quarter goals while Sheena Curtin ’06 and Samantha Sears ’09 added two apiece. Goalie Toni Fimowicz ’06 made seven saves and Danielle Montenegro ’07 tallied three goals to pace the Tigers against UC Santa Cruz.
On day two, Redlands jumped out to a 4-0 third quarter lead and went on to defeat Occidental 6-3, setting up a date with Pomona-Pitzer, the winner of tournament bracket “A” and No. 2-ranked team in the nation.
In a back-and-forth battle, Pomona pulled ahead 8-7 midway through the fourth quarter and led 9-8 with 1:08 remaining. Sweney knotted the score on a goal with 42 seconds left in regulation and notched the Tigers’ next two scores in overtime.
Curtin gave Occidental a two-goal lead with her third of the game in the second OT and the Tigers held off a late Pomona rally to win 12-11. Occidental converted on 11 of 13 power play opportunities in the match.
The Tigers got off to a slow start in the championship against Redlands, falling behind 3-0 before Montenegro scored with 1:20 remaining in the first quarter. The Bulldogs stretched the lead to five in the third period with goals from Sam Greenawalt and Alie Hower, taking their largest lead at 10-3 late in the fourth. Sears, Montenegro, and Sarah Boehler ’09 tallied goals in the last 1:15 to provide the final margin.
“While it was tough to lose in the championship, we can be proud that the program is back in a position to compete for a national title,” said third-year head coach Larry Zubrin. “It’s nice to see improvement each year and it's a testament to how hard we’ve worked.”
This year’s squad graduates seven seniors but returns eight players with significant experience in 2007. Montenegro, a Second Team All-SCIAC selection, along with Sears, Ashley Notti ‘09, and goalie Laura Simanonok ‘09, will anchor next year's effort.