Southwestern College women’s water polo team made like flying fish and whipped the Miramar College Jets 12-10 in the first round of the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Championship.
The Lady Jags began the game in masterful fashion, setting up plays with great offensive strategy. They split the defenders by moving the ball around on the outside of the goal with good passing, then striking with various styles of shots.
Freshman driver Kelly Micallef struck first, a high-arching lob that sailed over the goalie’s head for the Lady Jag’s first goal.
Defense was the name of the game on both sides.
Faced with a one-on-one fast break by a driving Jet, freshman goalie Mariela Rodriguez stood her ground (as best as possible in water). Rodriguez was patient. She counterattacked at the right moment and came away with a crucial save.
In the second half the Lady Jag’s defense began to break down. Miramar passed the ball well and was able to score three unanswered goals to tie the game at 6-6.
SWC’s offense also lost momentum. Bad passes over the top and into the middle allowed Miramar’s defense to swarm the center and come away with steals. The third quarter ended with the teams tied 7-7.
Then the shootout began.
SWC defense gained some water traction, but the fourth quarter was all offense.
Both teams went back and forth, exchanging possessions and goals. Neither defenses able to do much about it.
In the end it was the Lady Jags who were able to capitalize on given opportunities and muster just enough defense to stop the Jets and come away with the win.
SWC advanced to the next round of the PCAC championship to face Palomar College, ranked first in the PCAC and ninth in the state.
Head coach Jennifer Harper said playing Palomar would be challenging.
“The next game we have is harder,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll get a win and come back and play tomorrow.”
Coach Harper knew what she what talking about. The Lady Jaguars fell short and were dusted by the Comets, 10-3.
Palomar came out fighting with overwhelming defense and a strong offense produced two goals early in the first period. Comet swimmers dominated the pool, creating turnovers and breaking away for goals. The Lady Jags found themselves deep in a hole by the end of the first half, down 8-1.
The second half began in a similar fashion. SWC’s command of the pool from game one was nowhere to be found. Sloppy ball control allowed Palomar easy steals and rupturing SWC’s chance at mounting a comeback.
The Lady Jaguars moved into the consolation bracket and matched up against San Diego Mesa College in the final round of the PCAC tournament.
Four goals from freshman driver Laura Broyles and one from sophomore Alex Arambula gave SWC a chance, but Mesa overwhelmed the Lady Jaguars and secured the win 10-5.
The Lady Jaguars placed fourth in the PCAC with a conference record of 3-6 and 6-23 overall.
Despite a soggy record, Harper said she sees a glistening future for SWC’s resurgent water polo program.
“As a team they came together really well,” she said. “I think that was the most important aspect of this year because they’re so young, that coming together to build on next year. I think they succeeded well with the parameters that we set.”
Freshman Sofie Fialko said she thinks the chemistry the team built over this season will make the team a force to be reckoned with next year.
“I think we did really well towards the end of the season because we saw we could come together and win,” she said. “We could become better than where we started the beginning of the season.”
Freshman driver Bailey Garcia stressed that the team has to fight for every win and if it does it will come away as champions next season.
“I think we had some off games and some games where we were really strong,” she said. “I think if we take the strengths from this season and add it into next season I think we’ll be really good.”
Harper said she is proud of the team’s accomplishments thus far, but thinks there is one ingredient missing from this winning recipe.
“Conditioning,” she said. “I think that’s the biggest difference between those girls and us. The great news is that we were only one or two goals off the pace so I think to get to that next level we need to train.”