Women’s Water Polo Opens Season with 3-1 Start at Salem International Tournament
Courtesy: VMIKeydets.com
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SALEM, W.Va. -- Off to the best start in program history, the Virginia Military Institute women’s water polo team went 3-1 during the open weekend of play, partaking in the Salem International University Tournament, hosted at SIU Pool this past weekend.

The Keydets opened action with a close call against Notre Dame College, 12-10. VMI cruised past host Salem International 18-4, improving VMI to 3-0 all-time against the Tigers. VMI got its third win of the weekend Sunday morning with a 14-11 victory over Gannon University. Despite a close battle, the Keydets fell in their fourth match of the tournament, 14-6 against established Mercyhurst University.

In the opener, VMI used a four-goal burst to separate itself from Notre Dame College in the early goings, grabbing a 3-1 lead in the first quarter and extending it to a 7-3 advantage at halftime. Notre Dame climbed back into the match, pulling within three, 8-5, midway through the third quarter, but the VMI advantage was too great to overcome as the teams traded goals for the remainder of the match.

Rookie Caitlyn Jackson led the way for VMI in the season opener, logging six goals in her first collegiate game. Celine Lazzaro, who was injured last season, was the Keydets’ second leading scorer, putting away another four goals. Heather Magill and Mackenzie Perkins each scored once.

The Keydets’ third match with Salem International in program history was never in doubt as VMI vaulted out to a 10-1 lead at halftime. The Tigers struck twice in the third quarter, while holding the Keydets to just one goal in the period. VMI broke out in the fourth however, putting up another seven goals to finish the Tigers off.

Seven Keydets got in on the scoring against Salem International, including three each from Magill, Perkins, senior Amanda Berrios and freshman Joyce Zabala. Jackson posted another two goals, as did Justina Dunne to round out the action of Day One.

In Sunday’s first game, the Keydets found themselves in an early hole, down 6-2 midway through the second quarter. But VMI quickly worked its way bay into the match, taking an 8-6 advantage into halftime, its first lead since the 5:40 mark in the first quarter.

Once the Keydets wrested control of the match from the Knights, VMI never looked back, holding off a Gannon charge in the second half, but held onto the lead for the third win of the tournament. Lazzao was the big scorer for VMI, tucking away six goals while Jackson posted four. Dunne and Perkins each struck twice to help the Keydets to victory.

In VMI’s final game of the tournament, the Keydets were locked in a close match with Mercyhurst, with neither team relinquishing a lead more than two until late in the first half. The Lakers went up 2-0 in the first three minutes, but the keydets stormed back and took a 3-2 advantage with two and a half minutes left in the first. Mercyhurst struck once more before the quarter ended to tie the game 3-3.

The two teams traded blows in the second quarter, but the Lakers scored five goals in the second while VMI had just two. VMI found itself down 8-5 at the break. Mercyhurst used a five-goal third quarter to break the game open, while holding VMI scoreless. Each team scored just once in the final quarter of the game to conclude the tournament.

Lazzaro was once again VMI’s big scorer, posting four of the Keydets’ six markers. DUnne and Elise Reed accounted for VMI’s other two goals. Foul trouble hurt VMI, which saw Perkins and Zabala ejected from the game for incurring three exclusions.

The Keydets travel to visit the Lakers of Mercyhurst on Friday, Mar. 1 for their next competition. Action is slated for 6 p.m. at North East Aquatic Center in Erie, Pa.