The APU women’s water polo team hosted the only two home matches of the season in a triple-header against two nationally ranked teams on Tuesday, March 20, at Mt. SAC’s Marie T. Mills Aquatic Facility. Although the Cougars fell to both nationally ranked teams, Arizona State, ranked No. 4, and Princeton, ranked No. 18, the Cougars left the matches knowing they put up a good, solid fight against two of the nations best collegiate women’s water polo teams.
Before APU played ASU or Princeton on Tuesday, March 20, the two visiting teams played one another at 3:00. Following this match between ASU and Princeton, the Cougars played the winning team, ASU, at 4:15.
During the match between APU and ASU, the Cougars put up a good fight against the Sun Devils, an NCAA Division I team, currently ranked as the No. 4 team in the nation. Arizona State has won five of its last six matches against other teams that are also nationally ranked and managed a win against APU with a final score of 20-6.
“ASU was probably our hardest game for the whole season, but we went out there and did our best,” Jennifer Horchler said. “We all didn’t know what to expect, but I am really proud of the way we came out and played.”
Though APU goalie Brooke Sovick gave up the second most goals she has allowed this year with 20, she completed 11 blocks and four tips for a significant total of 15 saves in the game and played a large part in keeping the Sun Devils from managing a much higher final score.
Throughout the ASU match, Horchler, Courtney Folsom and Alison Gonzales benefitted the team offensively, with each of the girls scoring between one and three goals. Folsom who was the leading scorer of the game for APU, scored three goals during the fourth quarter alone. Horchler drew two ejections and scored two goals, while Gonzales scored one goal and completed two assists.
Less than seven minutes in to the ASU game, the Sun Devils made the first score of the game, and following this score, made five more scores before APU’s Horchler gave the home team a goal when she converted a six-on-five opportunity. Soon after, Gonzales made her goal for APU, making the score 6-2.
From this point on ASU continued to make goal after goal, until Folsom netted her three goals during the fourth quarter. Despite these three quick goals from Folsom, the game resulted in a 20-6 loss for the Cougars.
“With ASU having girls from national teams across the globe, it was a great learning experience and we look forward to taking that team offense and defense into our next competition,” head coach Julie Snodgrass said.
Following the match against ASU, APU played the Princeton Tigers at 7:15 p.m. in the nightcap. Like ASU, Princeton has also won five of its last six matches and proved to be a very worthy competitor for the Cougars.
Though the Tigers lost earlier in the day to ASU, they certainly came ready to win in the match against APU, scoring nine goals in the first 12 minutes of the match.
During the Princeton game, Folsom made the first score just under four minutes in to the second quarter, and right before the second quarter ended Horchler made another score for APU. This ended the first half with APU trailing 11-2.
In the second half of the match, the girls came ready to score and were only outscored by one. In this half of the game, the Cougars saw goals from Horchler, Gonzales, Taylor Whitney and Megan Minekime, who scored on a turn-around from two meters. Horchler was a standout player during this game with two goals and four steals.
Unfortunately for the APU women’s water polo team this game also resulted in a loss of 17-7. Despite the loss the team is still proud of their ability to compete with such highly ranked teams and for their 17-5 win the previous weekagainst NCAA Division I Virginia Military Institute.
“Before we played the games, we all were nervous and saw these teams as having unstoppable players, but after the games I feel like it gave us more confidence in ourselves and we realized that we aren’t far off from the same abilities as these teams,” Sovick said.
The APU women’s water polo team is one of the youngest programs at APU, being only in its fourth season this year, making it all the more incredible that the team is able to compete so well with nationally ranked teams.
“If you consider the beginnings of this team and how ‘young’ this team is, we are doing amazing. All except one girl is a returner, we have a new coach and it’s the first year in NCAA from NCIA where we are playing Division I and II teams. This year is setting a good foundation for a top team in the future,” Sovick said.
The Cougars are feeling confident after realizing their abilities in these two difficult matches and are hopeful as they get ready for a match against Chapman on Friday, March 23 in Orange, and also for the double-header coming up in La Jolla Friday, March 30 against Brown and Fresno Pacific.