On Friday, April 15, 11th-ranked UC Irvine Women’s Water Polo team (11-11, 4-7 MPSF) took on fourth-ranked University of Hawaii (13-6, 8-2 MPSF) in their last conference game of the season.
UCI started well against the higher-ranked Rainbow Wahine, but came up short in the second half, as the Anteaters lost the match 9-6.
With three first-quarter blocks, UCI freshman goalie Lauren Machanis fueled a quick start for the Anteaters, who jumped out to an early 2-0 lead.
Both of UCI’s goals came from starting freshman driver Jessica Lewis, whose last goal was an impressive shot that bounced under the arm of Hawaii goalie Meike De Nooy, triggering loud cheers from the UCI bench.
‘We were really excited to play this game,’ Lewis said afterward. ‘What a privilege to be able to play such a good team. … We knew we had nothing to lose so we came out real strong.’
UH, undaunted by UCI’s aggressive start, was able to tie the score at two shortly into the second quarter.
After UH Head Coach Michel Roy received a yellow card warning from the referee, UCI jumped out in front again with two goals, to make the score 4-2.
UCI’s sophomore driver Robyn Kaake, the Anteaters’ leading scorer, did what she’s done best all season by positioning herself between two Wahines in front of the goal and spun a shot between their hacking arms and past De Nooy to give UCI a 3-2 lead.
UCI’s fourth goal, scored by freshman two-meter Nicole Flacco, drew oohs and ahhs from the 70 or so fans who were in attendance.
In the high point of the game for UCI, Flacco received the ball inside and fired a great backhand shot that found its way through a number of defenders and a lunging goalie to hit the back of the net.
However, the excitement was short-lived for UCI as UH responded with two quick goals of their own to tie the score at four at halftime.
The second of these goals was scored by one of UH’s best players, Iefke Van Belkum.
Van Belkum received a perfect pass inside and found herself almost unguarded as she reared back to shoot on UCI goalie Machanis, but she was fouled hard and received a penalty shot.
Van Belkum showed no hesitation on the penalty throw as she fired the ball to the left of the goal and past Machanis who had guessed and dived the wrong way.
The third quarter featured a number of impressive individual performances. Both teams became intent on capturing the momentum after a tight first half.
Van Belkum continued her aggressive play and scored two quick goals to open the half and give UH a 6-4 lead. The second of these goals was an impressive long shot that went through the entire Anteater defense and past the outstretched fingertips of Machanis.
‘They just started hitting some shots,’ said UCI Head Coach Dan Klatt. ‘Having two lefties