PHILADELPHIA – With a league tournament spot on the line, the VMI water polo team clamped down to defeat Villanova by a high-scoring 17-14 tally Sunday afternoon at La Salle.
As a play-in match, the Keydets (20-10, 8-6) needed the win over the Wildcats to secure the fourth and final MAAC Tournament seed. Villanova won the first match between the two schools on March 24 and would have claimed the spot had the Wildcats swept the Keydets during the season.
"This was such an exciting game to be a part of,” said VMI head coach Ryan Pryor. “It was fast paced, and there was a lot of scoring and changes in momentum. Of course, the stakes only added to that, knowing that the winner would move on to the MAAC Championship.
“I was most proud of the way the team maintained composure throughout the game. Coming down to the wire in a back and forth game with the season on the line, they never got flustered or rushed things. They continued to remain calm and execute to the end and I believe that was the difference in the game. You have to tip your cap to Villanova. It was a well-played game by both teams."
The Keydets were led by senior Natalie Rivas and junior Sarah Dolitsky, who both scored five goals apiece to lead VMI to the win. The five goals scored by Rivas registered a season high.
Shelby Barkley concluded the regular season with two more goals Sunday, giving her exactly 100 to hit the century mark this season. On Saturday she eclipsed the VMI single season record for goals as she surpassed the previous school record of 93.
Sophia DelBondio and Rebecca Serrano each had a pair of goals while Emma Noble scored the other for the day. Senior goalie Catie Berry earned a season-high 13 saves to preserve the VMI victory.
VMI will play a semifinal match against No. 1 seed Wagner (21-6, 13-0) at 12 p.m. on Saturday, April 28. The winner will advance to the title game the following day on Sunday, April. 29.