This article originally appeared in ZU News.
The Azusa Pacific water polo team carried a lead against ranked rival Cal Baptist into the final three minutes of the game, before surrendering it and dropping the contest 8-9. With the loss, the Cougars fall to 13-13 on the season.
The Cougars led by as much as four goals at one point, largely thanks to a pair of hat tricks from senior attacker Britt Harris and freshmen utility Hannah Bradley.
Both Bradley and Harris led the team with three goals apiece. Bradley had a better shooting percentage of .500 compared to .375 for Harris, but Harris had five steals compared to Bradley’s one steal.
“We definitely came out stronger than we ever have before against CBU in my four years here,” Harris said. “I think we just fell a little flat toward the end of the third and fourth quarter. The score can definitely reflect that. We came out in the first with a 4-1 lead and in the fourth quarter they out scored us 4-1.”
Sophomore driver Sarah Adams agreed with Harris, saying the team needed to finish stronger.
“I feel the team could’ve played better. It wasn’t our best game. I think we came out strong but towards the end we made minor mistakes that unfortunately costed us the game,” Adams said. “I think I could’ve contributed more to the team and the game in every way. I felt as if I didn’t do my job on offense.”
Adams had one shot during the game. The team as a whole had 27 shots, outshooting Cal Baptist by two. However, the Lancers had four more shots on goal (18) than the Cougars (14). The amount of opportunities the Cougars had upset Adams.
“I felt a lot of different things. I felt that we definitely had a huge opportunity to bring home the win, especially since we were up the whole game, but it was upsetting to lose to one of our rivals, especially CBU,” Adams said.
Harris shared Adam’s frustration after the loss.
“I was pretty upset after the game because I felt that our team was so capable of winning, but it is just a game and we have more to play so I’m looking to taking out my frustrations with our next opponent,” Harris said. “For now, I am looking at this loss as a bump in the road for the team. We will persevere.”
Senior goalkeeper Erica Marquez said that losing a rivalry game like this was tough, one of many tough games for the Cougars this season.
“Cal Baptist is always a very tough game. It’s a rivalry game so we both prepare all season for this moment. You have to give it all you got,” Marquez said. “We’ve played a lot of ranked teams but we have prepared for them. I believe that even though the games have been tough, we are ready to prove ourselves as a program.”
Cal Baptist, currently ranked 23rd in the nation, is just one of 10 ranked opponents the Cougars have faced this season (which includes Cal State Northridge who APU has played three times this season). The Cougars are 2-11 versus ranked opponents, making them an almost perfect 13-2 against unranked schools.
“This is one of the most if not the most challenging string of games in a season that I have experienced in my four years here,” Harris said. “We are playing a lot of ranked teams, but those games are also the most fun. Losing by one here and there sucks, but it’s just nice to see the program continuously improving. In years past if we played teams like this, almost every game would have been a blowout and not in our favor. This is by far the most competitive team we’ve had.”
The Cougars next game is a home contest against Santa Clara on Saturday, April 7 at 12 p.m. This is one of three consecutive home games the team will have to end the season.
“We beat Santa Clara twice last year at their home pool, so I am expecting them to come out with a fire in their stomachs,” Harris said. “I’m really looking forward to this match because I know our team is capable of coming out on top. These are some of my last games ever and I’m just trying to play to the best of my ability and not leave anything on the table.”