LEXINGTON, Va. - On the second day of its annual weekend of hosting MAAC water polo programs, the Keydets earned a split by falling to No. 17 Wagner but rebounding with a win over Iona Sunday at Clark King Pool.
VMI (18-5, 7-2) notched its first ever win over Iona since the program began in 2012 as the Keydets battled to a 16-13 win over the Gaels in the event finale. Earlier in the day against No. 17 Wagner, the Keydets fell by a 10-8 score, the closest the program has ever come to defeating a nationally ranked team.
"I was really proud of how we battled today in both games," said VMI head coach Ryan Pryor. "We were able to come back after Wagner got off to a good start and we took the game down to the wire. Against Iona, it was back and forth throughout and the team did a great job of finishing in the fourth quarter."
Against Iona, the Keydets raced out to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter following goals from Shelby Barkley, Rebecca Serrano and Bailey Huddleston. Emma Noble and Huddleston added goals in the second period to give VMI a 5-4 advantage at the half. After both teams scored five goals in the third quarter, the Keydets grinded it out in the final period to outscore the Gaels by a 6-4 margin and grab the hard-earned victory.
Freshman goalie Isabel French also played a crucial role in the win by earning a season-high 19 saves, second most in program history for a single match.
The Keydets stayed aggressive offensively and forced three Gaels to be kicked out of the match, including leading Gael scorer Hannah Schultz, after the Gaels picked up three exclusions apiece.
Junior Natalie Rivas led the Keydets with four goals while Shelby Barkley and Huddleston both logged three. Noble and Rebecca Serrano each added a pair of goals during the match. With Barkley scoring 12 goals for the weekend between the four matches VMI competed in, she now has 183 career goals, only eight shy of Mackenzie Perkins' all-time program record of 191.
No. 17 Wagner 10, VMI 8
The Keydets got off to a slow start against the Seahawks as Wagner jumped to a 4-1 lead after the opening period but battled back in the second to outscore the opponent, 4-3, to go into the break down only 7-5.
While VMI battled hard in the second half, the Seahawks were able to match every Keydet score as both teams scored three goals for Wagner to escape with the win. The Seahawks outshot the Keydets by a 34-14 ratio and went 4-7 on powerplay opportunities to help secure the win.
Barkley, Noble and Cecilya Lundy all scored two goals apiece for the Keydets in the loss while Rivas and Serrano each had one.
Wagner's Kimberly Watson scored five goals to lead the Seahawks. In a complete match, VMI keeper Isabel French registered 11 saves in the loss.
VMI returns to action next weekend with two matches Saturday against St. Francis (Brooklyn) at 10:30 a.m. and against Villanova at 4 p.m. in Brooklyn, New York. The Keydets then travel to Staten Island to face host Wagner on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.