FRESNO, Calif.-- After a slow start the Azusa Pacific women’s water polo team opened its 2013 campaign with a convincing victory, before dropping its second match to kick off the season with a split. The Cougars, coming off a 9-27 season, posted a 12-8 win over Fresno Pacific in the morning, despite being held scoreless in the opening quarter, and dropped an 8-6 contest to Cal State Monterey Bay in the afternoon.
Alyssa Hess, who set the single-season record for goals as a freshman in 2011 (64) and red-shirted the 2012 season, returned in style, scoring a team-high four goals in the defeat of the Sunbirds. Hess then added a goal and two steals in the loss the Sea Otters. Hess also notched a pair of steals against a Cal State Monterey Bay team that smashed the Cougars 17-7 in their second match of 2012.
“We were able to get our jitters out against Fresno Pacific. It was good to see that we can improve in areas, and it won’t take that much change. It’s good to see the progress...that was the positive today,” said head coach Julie Snodgrass. “It was really good to see Alyssa come back. She did so well in the first match that Monterey Bay did everything they could to stop her, and that really opened things up for everyone else.”
Azusa Pacific got impressive performances from a trio of freshmen after Maryann Slama and Brittney Garrigan recorded two goals apiece in their debut, while rookie keeper Katie Margot registered seven saves in her first career win. Junior Megan Minekime was a terror for the Sunbird defense, drawing a match-high six ejections, and senior Jennifer Horchler added to her program-record (85 goals) with a pair of scores on the day.
“I can’t say enough about Megan’s impact. She drew a ton of ejections, and contributed in a huge way. I was happy that we were able to get everyone in and see some different rotations out there. Maryann got a lot of good looks, and Brittney did an excellent job of attacking where we needed her,” said Snodgrass.
Nine Cougars found the back of the net between the two matches, and five tallied multiple scores. Junior goalie Jessica Armagost logged her third career 10 save match in the loss to Cal State Monterey Bay, finishing with 10 saves and a steal. Azusa Pacific converted on four of its 12 6-on-5 opportunities against the Sunbirds, and after going scoreless after eight minutes of play, totaled five second quarter goals.
Hess and Garrigan helped lead the charge in the second quarter, converting a pair of 6-on-5 chances in the frame as the Cougars turned a 1-0 deficit into a 5-4 lead. From then on Azusa Pacific controlled the match, taking an 8-5 lead into the final break, before closing with four goals to register its second consecutive season-opening victory over Fresno Pacific.
In the match against Cal State Monterey Bay neither team led by more than two. The Sea Otters went ahead 4-3 after eight minutes, and held a 5-4 advantage at half time. The Cougars stayed within one after the third quarter, trailing 7-6, before Monterey Bay registered an 8-6 win.
“Monterey Bay was challenging because they play a rare defense. We were still able to capitalize on their defensive mistakes and get ejections when we ran our offense properly, but it just took us too much time for us to get there. It was just too little too late,” said Snodgrass.
Angelina Castaneda and Taylor Whitney scored goals in the loss, while Alynn Reade and Minekime had two assists apiece. Reade also had three assists in the win over Fresno Pacific. Azusa Pacific went 2-for-6 in their 6-on-5 scenarios, while Cal State Monterey Bay went 1-for-6 with a player-up advantage. Lora Donaldson had a goal, two assists, a steal, and won two sprints against the Sunbirds.
The Cougars will return to the pool next weekend when they face UC Santa Barbara, Loyola Marymount, Concordia, and Pacific at the UCSB mini tournament on Friday and Saturday.