Box Score (PDF)
FRESNO, Calif.-- Saturday’s 9-7 loss to Cal State Monterey Bay had the Cougars sick to their stomachs, almost literally. But not even a bout of food poisoning could keep the Azusa Pacific women’s water polo team from closing the CCAA Invitational with a 10-7 win over Fresno Pacific on Sunday.
With their only two keepers out of commission with food poisoning the Cougars turned to an unlikely source in Lora Donaldson, who had never played a match between the posts in her career. The move paid off to the tune of 15 saves as Azusa Pacific clinched fifth place thanks to a stout defensive performance and a strong fourth quarter.
“Both Katie Margot and Jessica Armagost were sick all of last night and this morning, so us coaches were left scrambling. Lora immediately came to mind because she’s one of our most athletic players. And when we suggested the idea she was pumped about it,” said head coach Julie Snodgrass. “She’s a natural fit, not only because she has good reaction time and an athletic build, but because she’s a very selfless player.”
Donaldson seemingly had no issues adjusting to life between the posts, tallying a pair of saves in the opening quarter to help the Cougars to a 2-1 lead after eight minutes of play. She also finished strong, with four fourth quarter stops as Azusa Pacific turned a 6-6 tie into a 10-7 win in the final frame.
Taylor Whitney keyed the late run, scoring all three of her goals in the fourth quarter. She was the team’s only player to record more than one goal.
“In the fourth we slowed down our offense and played our game. We had a lot of good offensive possessions and everyone contributed and played well,” said Snodgrass. “Taylor was our primary center in the fourth quarter, and when we were finally running our offense well she was in there for us to take advantage. She’s a very aggressive player who can make great shots, but ultimately it takes a team-effort to get her the ball.”
Azusa Pacific registered assists on nine of its 10 goals, with Megan Minekime posting a team-high three dishes.
Through the first three quarters neither team led by more than a goal. There were three lead changes, and six times the score was knotted. But in the final period the Cougars rattled off four consecutive scores, three from Whitney, and one from Alyssa Hess to put the Sunbirds away.
Whitney’s first goal made it a 7-6 affair before Hess found the back of the net to stretch the lead to two a minute later. Azusa Pacific then went ahead 9-6 with 4:17 remaining in the match before Whitney notched the hat trick with 2:14 to go as the Cougars held a commanding 10-6 advantage. Fresno Pacific got a 6-on-5 goal with 1:31 to go, but by then the lead was insurmountable.
The Cougars tied the match at 6-6 in the final seconds of the third quarter behind Courtney Folsom’s first goal of the day after Allison Gonzales erased Fresno Pacific’s 5-4 advantage with 1:37 left in the third. Alynn Reade also found the back of the net in a high scoring frame that saw the Sunbirds take, and lose, the lead three times.
In the second quarter Fresno Pacific outscored the Cougars 2-1 after Azusa Pacific grabbed a 2-1 advantage in the first quarter. Maryann Slama, Jennifer Horchler, and Brittney Garrigan each found the back of the net in the first half. Slama finished with a team-high four steals in the win, while Whitney added three on the defensive end.
Azusa Pacific, which posted its second win over the Sunbirds this year, will close its 2013 campaign next weekend at the Lancer Mini Invite, where it’ll take on Fresno Pacific for a third time before challenging California Baptist in the season finale.