The Occidental women’s water polo team (2-10 overall, 0-6 SCIAC) was unable to break out of their conference slump, falling to La Verne 20-11 and Cal Lutheran 13-8 in last week’s matchups.
Despite their continued struggles, the Tigers look like they have started to turn the corner. Offensively they had one of their best games of the season against the Leopards, stringing together 11 goals against one of the top teams in the conference.
Leading the charge for Occidental were juniors Carly Zurcher and Kyla Houck. Both players recorded hat-tricks, providing the team a constant stream of offense. Not to be outdone, Lizzy Kosin (senior) added two goals while three other Tigers were able to find the back of the net.
“I think one of the reasons we were able to score more on offense in our La Verne game is that we took more advantage of our opportunities,” Zurcher said. “There have been plenty of times in the past where we made a safer choice instead of taking advantage of a riskier but more beneficial opportunity.”
While the Tigers may have had one of their best games offensively against the Leopards, their defense still had some holes. La Verne’s Stephanie Rosero gashed Occidental for eight goals. Aside from Rosero’s outburst, though, the Tigers goalkeeper Anna De Groot (junior) cemented the team’s defense, recording nine saves.
In Saturday’s game against Cal Lutheran, Occidental clamped down on defense, surrendering only six goals in the first half. Unfortunately for Occidental, the team’s offensive woes returned for the first three quarters of the match, as the Tigers were only able to muster three goals in the first half and were shut out in the third quarter. Nevertheless, Occidental found their stride in the final frame, netting five goals before the final buzzer sounded.
Kosin led the Tigers offensively, tallying two goals in each half. Hi’ipoi Lee (sophomore) provided an additional two goals while Zulema Iboa-Garcia (junior) and Amanda Akiyama (junior) each added goals of their own.
“We have been working on building our confidence when shooting in practice and in game,” Kosin said. “A lot of the team is stepping up in big ways during games because of the hard work we have been putting into practice.”
Even with their offensive hot streak, the Tigers were unable to dig themselves out of their early deficit, dropping the match 13-8 and sinking to 0-6 in conference play.
With only two games left in the season, the Tigers will look to turn things around before the SCIAC tournament. However, their limited roster and lingering injuries make practicing all the more difficult.
“Not being able to scrimmage makes it difficult to perform at our fullest capacity during actual games,” Iboa-Garcia said. “Additionally, we have played considerably less games compared to previous seasons, again making it harder to play our best.”
Nevertheless, the Occidental squad has continued to rise to the challenge, taking most of their games this season down to the wire.
The Tigers will look to put both the offensive and defensive pieces together when they will try to end their conference losing streak today at 4 p.m. when they travel to CalTech to take on the Beavers.
“I think our biggest goal as a team is to improve our game awareness and to keep the mentality of always wanting to create opportunities for yourself and your other teammates to score,” Zurcher said. “We have come a long way in being able to play aggressively, and I think our mental game needs to match that intensity.”