By Elissa Hammersla
It was a triumphant win for the UC Santa Cruz women’s water polo team last Sunday when the Slugs beat CSU East Bay in overtime 10–9 at the East Field House Pool. Their win guaranteed the team a spot at the national competition, which will be held at Connecticut College May 2–4.
The crowd couldn’t have asked for a more exciting game as the Slugs battled with their opponents, each team taking the lead at different points in the match. With the match still at tie in its final quarter, the crowd started to chant with bellowing support, “If you can’t go to UC, go to State!”
“I’m just stoked we won,” co-head coach Danielle Mulford said, “but we were a little too nervous at the beginning.”
The team utilized strong defense and consistency throughout the match.
“We had trouble parking the bus,” said junior lefty Heather Stewart, who scored three of the 10 goals for UCSC. “But it felt really good to win that game.”
“Parking the bus” is what co-head coach Alan Cima calls “just putting the ball in the back of the net.”
The Slugs dominated the pool, making quick comebacks each time they were down. In the last quarter of overtime, senior Kate Simonis made the deciding goal with 25 seconds left on the clock. Nicole Lutkemuller, a freshman goalie, improved throughout the season and culminated with some great saves to help the Slugs to victory.
Two-meter players Chelsea Meyers and Jaisy Hanson, who stayed close to the net with intent to score, also made impressive goals. Field players Annie Keating and Cara Hipskind, freshman Mollie Chadwick, junior transfer Nila Ward and sophomore Kelly Samples also contributed to the win.
“We’re a really united team and we all respect each other,” senior Alicia Fitzgerald said. “We all depend on each other and work well together.”
True unity and intensity were clear qualities of the team before and after the game, as the girls screamed “Whose House? Our House!”
Coaches Mulford and Cima attributed the team’s success to the skill and dedication of its members.
“We have a really talented group,” Alan Cima said. “The girls have great enthusiasm and a great attitude.”
Ranked fourth in the nation among Division III schools, the Slugs have a spot in the national eight-team tournament in Connecticut.
The match was a constant battle, with several ejections and a strong defense on the UCSC side. Each girl had a true look of passion on her face throughout the game, and none of them lost their optimism.
“In order to be a good water polo player,” Mulford said during practice, “you have to be a wrestler, a basketball player, a sprinter and a long-distance swimmer.”