Women’s water polo opens season with two victories

Cooper Mead, Senior Writer

The women’s water polo team opened its 2014 season Feb. 15-16 at the Kinney Natatorium for the Bison Invitational (nine teams, 18 games). Led by coach John McBride and anchored by 13 returning letter-winners and five returning starters, the team went 2-2, defeating Villanova and Marist while falling to No. 20 Hartwick and No. 8 Princeton.

“This weekend went pretty well for the team. We went 2-2, losing only to nationally ranked teams,” Julianne Valdes ’14 said. “The highlight of the weekend was definitely coming together and getting a tough win Sunday afternoon against a pretty good team.”

Despite a weather-related cancellation of their first game against UC San Diego on Feb. 14, the team began play on Feb. 15 against Villanova. The Bison fought hard in the first half, and entered the second half with a 4-3 lead over the Wildcats. Despite their efforts, the team began the fourth quarter trailing by one (6-5). The team pushed back in the fourth, led by Eleanor Marrs ’16 who scored a goal early in the fourth quarter. The goal led the Bison charge, as they scored four more consecutive goals. In the next two minutes, the Orange and Blue pulled ahead for a 9-6 lead. With just under two minutes to play, Stephanie Ovalle ’14 scored one final goal to give the Bison a 10-7 win.

The effort was led by Valdes, who had three goals in the first half. In addition, Taylor Barnett ’15 and Marrs added two goals each. Goalie Rena Heim ’14 made 13 saves, equaling her career high. This marks the second year in a row that the Bison won their season opener.

In their second game of the day, the Orange and Blue came up short against Hartwick. The powerful Hartwick offense exploded for a 6-0 lead, and the Bison trailed 9-3 at half. Unable to come closer than a six goal margin, the Orange and Blue effort was largely hurt by 16 turnovers, and the eventual 13-6 loss brought the Bison to a 1-1 record.

The Bison had two more matches for their second day of competition at the invitational. The squad opened against a tough No. 8 Princeton team and lost 10-3. The Tigers came out with a strong 10-0 start until the fourth quarter when the Orange and Blue tallied three goals. The Bison effort was led by Marrs, who scored two goals, and Julia Ingersoll ’17, who added one goal.

Despite the defeat, the Bison rebounded to beat Marist in a highly contested game. The first half of the game was close, with the Orange and Blue at first pulling out to a 3-1 lead. Marist countered with a strong  three goal push and the Bison tallied one more to bring the score to 4-4 at half. The Orange and Blue scored three goals in the third quarter, and the defense held the Red Foxes to just one goal in the second half. The team effort was led by Hannah Sunday ’16, who began the scoring, and captains Mackenzie Ferry ’14 and Valdes, who each contributed three goals. The Orange and Blue evened their record to 2-2 with the 7-5 win over Marist and brought the Bison record to 12-2 against overall Marist.

“With this being my fourth season, I can say, and I think my fellow senior teammates would agree, that this was easily the best kick-off to our season in a while,” Ovalle said. “We started off with a win against Villanova and then endured some rough matches against No. 20 Hartwick and No. 8 Princeton. In the end, we battled through to a hard fought win against Marist to end the tournament on a really high note.”

The team will travel to Cambridge, Mass. tomorrow to compete at the CWPA/MAAC Crossover. They will compete against Villanova, Siena, Wagner, and Iona during the two-day event.

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