After an up-and-down year, the MSMU’s women’s water polo team was able to make a final push for the postseason. They were able to win three of their last four conference games, putting them above .500 for conference on the season at 7-6. That was good enough for the final spot in the blue division (third in the division), which means that they will be playing Iona University, a team that they split the season series 1-1. The team was able to make this kind of a run in part because of returning faces, but also thanks to some new ones.
Becca Valentine, a sophomore from Blue Bell, Pa., and Emily Van Kerckhove, a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, were able to hold down the center position. They combined for 43 goals on offense, while on defense amassing 24 steals, and a more than impressive 66 total exclusions drawn. Returning sophomore Robyn “Dynamite” Curry held the point for the team and finished with 47 assists to lead the team. Junior, Ana Luisa Cota led all returners with 55 goals. That came on a 37% shooting percentage.
As for the new players, graduate transfer Pip Piper held it down in the net for the Mountaineers. She played in 18 games and recorded 166 saves while amassing 28 steals and 8 assists. Fellow Graduate transfer Annefleur ten Bloemendal led the team in both goals and shots taken. She scored 64 in a 39% clip. First-year student, Anna Kegel came in and led all first-years in all stats. She finished the regular season with 32 goals. The most important addition, junior transfer, Heather “Kiwi” Lock scored an impressive 48 goals at a ridiculous rate of 55%. Lock also finished second on the team with steals and draw exclusions.
Overall, when asked what made this playoff run possible, Curry said, “We have had a lot of growing; we have overcome a lot of obstacles and created a new stable culture.” She continued to say that with this team, the new conference fit them well and that they could compete with any team that is in the MAAC conference. As Piper stated, the program is in its third year, and this year it was their chance to show what they could really do.
Through hard work and a late push in the season, this team now gets to face off against Iona for the third time. After winning 9-8 the first time the Mount played Iona, they came up short a week later losing 8-11. A rough second quarter put the Mountaineers behind, and a slow fourth quarter ended any chance of a comeback. Come April 28 however, MSMU will get another chance to right their loss and finish on a winning note over their newfound foes. Valentine said so long as the team practices hard and they stay focused they should have a chance. Although playing a team three times is hard, she said, she also noted that their team does a good job of adjusting and changing what they do.
When asked if the Mount has what it takes to defeat the Gaels and make a run in the playoffs, Pip said there were only two things that they had to do. “We have to relax, and we have to want it.”