NORTHRIDGE, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s water polo team has missed on its fair share of chances late in games this season, but on Wednesday afternoon the Cougars capitalized with six fourth quarter goals, including five straight to close the match in a 17-16 comeback win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The Cougars, who trailed by two going into the fourth frame, I were behind by as many as four twice in the fourth quarter before ending the match on a 5-0 run, capped by Alyssa Hess’ game-winner as time expired.
“It was nice to finally be on the other end of a fourth quarter comeback. It was good to see the energy of our team, whether they were in the pool or on the bench, everyone was invested. We took a while to get going, but by the end we were firing on all cylinders and I’m glad it was enough for us to get the win,” said head coach Julie Snodgrass.
After erasing a 16-12 deficit with four consecutive goals, the Cougars got the ball with eight seconds left in regulation, called time out, and drew up a play for the final possession. Then, on the final play Hess used an Alynn Reade screen, popped up from the point, and draped with a CMS defender fired the game-winner to clinch Azusa Pacific’s ninth win of the season.
“The play didn’t go exactly how we wanted, but Alyssa found a way to score even with a defender right in her face. It was the spark that we needed headed into conference play. It’s good that we’re clicking, and now we know what we’re capable of,” said Snodgrass.
Azusa Pacific, which fell 12-7 to No. 7 ranked Cal State Northridge earlier in the day, got four goals from Courtney Folsom and Maryann Slama in the victory, with Folsom adding three assists in a match where the Cougars tallied 12 assists on 17 goals. Angelina Castaneda and Hess each scored twice against the Athenas, while five other Azusa Pacific players found the back of the net in the team’s ninth win of the year (9-12).
Azusa Pacific converted on four if its six 6-on-5 opportunities, and Katie Margot recorded five saves and two steals against CMS, giving the sophomore keeper a total of 11 stops between the two matches.
Taylor Whitney scored once in each match, while Slama found the back of the net once against the Matadors to give the sophomore five goals on the day. Castaneda tallied a pair of goals in each of the games, helping the Cougars register their fourth match with 15+ goals this season.
Azusa Pacific trailed the Athenas 4-3 after the first quarter, and after a 5-5 second, went into the break behind 9-8. CMS extended its lead to 13-11 in the third quarter and went ahead by four with two quick goals to start the fourth. An Azusa Pacific goal cut the deficit to 15-12, but the Athenas struck again with another goal to make it a 16-12 contest. The Cougars then rattled off five straight scores to register an improbable 17-16 win.
Cal State Northridge (14-5) had to hold off a stubborn Cougar team in its home opener, going into halftime ahead 7-4. The Cougars’ matched the seventh-ranked Matadors with two goals in the third quarter before a 3-1 CSUN frame closed out Azusa Pacific.
Azusa Pacific will travel to Tempe, Ariz. for the Arizona State Invitational over the weekend, with matches set against Occidental, Marist, Whittier, and Cal State Bakersfield. The Cougars will then return for their home opener against St. Francis on Tuesday before opening Golden Coast Conference play against Fresno Pacific on Friday, March 21.