by Anna Roy
The women’s water polo team has kept its standing as second in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, having defeated both Whittier and Chapman this past week, 12-2 and 13-2, respectively.
“This season, so far, we are ranked second in conference, and second in the nation,” said sophomore utility Jennifer Pacheco. “Our conference is the best one in our division. Only one team is ranked ahead of us.”
The team that is in first is the University of Redlands, which ULV will take on during conference finals.
After defeating both schools, the team is now anticipating Saturday’s game against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
The Leopards’ defeat of Chapman was smooth, with Pacheco scoring a game high of six goals against the team.
“We came out hard, right from the beginning. Everyone showed up, and we came out heads up. We didn’t start out slow,” said senior goalie Maria de Santis, who is playing in her fourth season.
Currently, the team has the experience and dedication of three other senior women, Tandis Morgan, Summer Hammond and Andrea Griffith, all in their fourth seasons on the team.
“For all of us seniors, we’re all coming out for the win. I think we have more desire this year,” de Santis said.
With the help of head coach Tim Hugar and assistant coach Mike Miles, the team has continued to stay focused, with the transition of having more experienced players on the team that previous years.
“Instead of having six or seven girls with experience, we have 11,” said Pacheco.
Freshman driver Gabi Bahlo is a starter for the team.
“She has been a tremendous asset for the team. Her speed, nobody can beat her,” said Pacheco.
Bahlo’s skills were evident on Wednesday’s game against Whittier, as she scored several goals, two of which came within seconds of one another.
While the Leopards were favored to win the game, the team saw it as a chance to practice particular plays and get ready for conference finals scheduled home, at the La Verne Aquatics Center on April 26-28.
Hugar said the team started out slow in the first quarter, with one one-on-one goal being scored against the Leopards in the first quarter. But soon the team picked up its speed and seemed to be in sync for the rest of the entire game. With long passes to teammates and good communication, the team’s efforts ended victoriously.
“We’re doing well, but there is still a lot ahead of us,” Hugar said.
Whittier’s efforts were visible, but did not prove enough for the Leopards with a final score of 13-2.
“We’ve been in that position, when we started out we were the team with only a couple of points,” Morgan said.
Though time and experience has made a difference in the performance of team, whose record has significantly improved. The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III championship is scheduled in Minnesota during the first week in May, and this weekend’s conference finals will indicate if the Leopards will attend.
“Saturday is a huge game for us and everyone is pumped,” Morgan said.
Her teammate Pacheco who added enthusiastically, “We’d love for people to come out and support us.”