The Poets Women’s Water Polo 2022 season came to a close this past Sunday, where they came up just short in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC )Finals against Pomona-Pitzer. Before this season, the Poets had not played for two years. In 2020, they had a record of 9 – 5 before the season was canceled due to the pandemic, along with their 2021 season being canceled. This year, the Poets looked to get back on track with how they were performing two years ago. In the regular season, Whittier finished third in their conference — behind Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-M-S. Their record within their conference was 10 – 4 while their overall record stood at 15 – 10.
David Kasa, Head Coach of the Women’s/Men’s Water Polo teams, opened up about his team’s season and their impressive display: “Most of the girls hadn’t played in over two years. It was a struggle to get the team chemistry flowing from the start because we had a lot of new players to the program … We are very proud of this group of student-athletes, who have shown a tremendous amount of commitment to get us to the point we are at now.”
Before the start of their regular season could take place, the Poets participated in the Beach Invite on Jan. 23. They clashed with the University of La Verne and Long Beach State. Although Poets did beat SCIAC foe La Verne, they took a grueling loss against Long Beach State. However, fourth-year Natasha Velez was awarded Offensive Athlete of the Week honors for scoring five goals during their first weekend of the season. Additionally, fourth-year Bryanna Santis was able to capture SCIAC Defensive Athlete of the Week.
Nearly a month later, the Poets took part in the Bulldog Invitational on the weekend of Feb. 19 but came up short against both UC San Diego and Claremont-M-S. Despite this, the Poets were able to turn things around and get some significant wins over their opponents. Their first SCIAC game of the season came in a win against Caltech, beating the Beavers 18 – 5. The Poets won six straight between February and March, starting with their win against Caltech. The final three wins of their hot streak took place at the Claremont Convergence, where they had a successful weekend — winning three of four games. Fourth-year Alex Lopez was named SCIAC Athlete of the Week in the first week of March for her role in helping the Poet’s win four of five games that week.
One game that stands out from the rest is their most recent game against Pomona-Pitzer, a top-ranked Division III team that is undefeated within the SCIAC Conference, and a team they would eventually play in the championship game. Although the Poets came up short by just a single goal, this showed their ability to compete with one of the best. This loss would mark the fourth one-goal defeat of the season, displaying their competitiveness against their opponents-no matter who it may be.
At the end of the regular season, five members of the Poet’s Women’s Water Polo team received SCIAC recognition for their outstanding season, where they captured third seed in the SCIAC Tournament. Third-year Ally Burke made headlines amongst Poet’s recipients. She was named one of 10 players to the First-Team All-SCIAC. Burke ranked sixth in goals scored amongst others in their conference; she had a total of 41 goals to cap off her regular season. Burke talked about being recognized for her contributions, as well as the team’s season: “I was so honored to receive the recognition. I was so proud to be recognized along with four of my teammates because our season has been amazing, and I could not have done it without them.”
In addition, Teresa Marchetti, Bryanna Santis, and Alex Lopez received Second-Team honors for their pivotal roles in the Poet’s season success. Lauren Tapia, fourth-year goalie and captain, was awarded with this year’s Character Award for being a foundational piece to the team, having an immense impact both on and off the field. This team is filled with nothing but talented athletes who aim to be at the top.
Burke took a moment to reflect on the Poets season and what to take away in terms of future success: “I think our biggest lesson from this season is to always try our hardest and give all that we have… Looking to the future, it is easier said than done — giving your all in everything you do — but this experience has really taught me how great the reward can be, and [has] given me the motivation to apply it to all aspects of my life.”
Burke used one word to describe this team: dedicated. “We are so dedicated to our sport and to our team that I really don’t think anything can get in our way of a National Championship,” she said. “We play hard for each other and continue to surprise everyone.”
Burke looked forward to the postseason and the team’s pursuit of a National Championship. “The challenging part has been to not let the losses get in our head. But, we are all ready for the big game and are so excited for the opportunity to show what we are capable of!”
Coach Kasa discussed his game plan heading into the postseason, saying, “We want to stick to what we do best — which is to run a controlled structured offense highlighting our strong center play. The ability to communicate and play as a team is vital for us to accomplish our goal and compete for a National Championship. We are super excited to represent Whittier College to the best of our abilities.”
The Poets started their postseason journey facing Claremont-M-S in the SCIAC Tournament Semifinals. This was their fourth time playing CMS, and the Poets were finally able to overcome them — doing so on the most important stage. The Poets defeated them, with the final score being 9 – 5. With their win, they had one more obstacle on their path to glory. The Poets faced off against a strong Pomona-Pitzer team in the SCIAC Tournament Finals. Unfortunately, the Poets were not able to come away with championship gold: they fell short to Pomona with a final score of 16 – 12. Despite the disappointing result in the SCIAC Championship game, this team showed a great amount of effort in the most important game of their season. There is no shame in the season the Poets had. This team was spectacular throughout, and all of these athletes should be proud, reflecting on what they were able to accomplish.
Featured Image: Courtesy of wcpoets.com