History Made as Water Polo Splits Day Two at Claremont Convergence
Courtesy: VMIKeydets.com
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CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Another day, another piece of history made for the Virginia Military Institute women’s water polo team. On Saturday afternoon, the Keydets logged the program’s first-ever win over a school from California, besting Occidental College 9-8.

The win helped VMI split its second day of the Claremont Convergence. In the morning, the Keydets dropped a tough 9-5 decision to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges at the Athenas’ Axelrood Pool.

Despite the outcome, VMI has shown remarkable improvement since last season. During the Keydets trip to the west coast last year, VMI was held without a win, losing several games by double digits. This season however, three of VMI’s games in California have been decided by three goals or less.

Last season, the Keydets fell to both CMS and Occidental, 21-6 and 19-6, respectively. This year however, VMI’s games were close, including the team’s first win on the west coast.

In the opener with CMS, the Keydets’ offense was paced by Celine Lazzaro, who posted another hat trick with three goals, including one on the power play. Amanda Berrios and Caitlyn Jackson each chipped in one goal, but VMI could not hold off the Athenas.

The game was tied 2-2 after the first quarter, but CMS held VMI off the board for the next two stanzas, while the Athenas notched another five goals, taking a 7-2 lead into the final quarter. VMI rallied however, outscoring CMS 3-2 in the fourth, making it a 9-5 game.

In the historic second game, VMI and Occidental traded blows, with neither team gaining more than a three-goal advantage. VMI’s offense was powered by Lazzaro, who put away another five goals while Jackson and Mackenzie Perkins each scored a pair.

Lazzaro started the scoring to put VMI up 1-0, but the Tigers tied things up a minute and a half later. It was once again Lazzaro who scored VMI’s next go-ahead goal, 2-1 at the end of the first.

The second quarter was another close stanza as Occidental scored three times and VMI twice, ending the period tied 4-4. This quarter, it was Jackson’s turn to score as she notched her pair, including a five-meter penalty shot, tying the game 3-3 with 5:16 to play in the second.

In the third quarter, Perkins joined Lazzaro in the scoring, with each Keydet scoring twice. Lazzaro bookended the quarter, scoring VMI’s first and fourth goals of the third. Perkins scored back-to-back tallies after Lazzaro’s first to give VMI a 7-4 lead. But Occidental’s Danielle Garcia pulled the Tigers back within striking distance, 7-5, before Lazzaro scored her fourth of the afternoon.

Heading into the fourth, VMI held a 7-5 lead, but the Tigers attempted a rally, scoring twice in the period to make it a close game. However, it was Lazzaro who scored what proved to be the gamewinner for VMI, putting the Keydets up 9-7 with three minutes to play. The Tigers tried one more rally, but Katya Soot’s lone goal with 25 seconds left was not enough and VMI held on to win 9-8.

Earning not only the program’s first over a California school, but her own at the collegiate level as well, Molly Watkins made 15 saves in goal for the Keydets, a personal best for the rookie.

After four games in two days, VMI will have off until Tuesday when it rematches with Occidental, this time at the Tigers’ home pool in Los Angeles. That game, slated for 10 a.m. (PST) is the first of two for VMI on Tuesday, as the Keydet challenge Caltech at 6 p.m. in Pasadena, Calif.