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Women’s Water Polo Defeated by the Rainbow Warriors in the Final Home Match of the Season

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The No. 6 seeded Women’s Water Polo team (9-5, 1-1) was unable to conquer the No. 8 University of Hawaii (5-1, 1-1) in a 10-6 loss at the Anteater Aquatics Complex on Saturday, April 11. 

Before the whistle, UCI honored seven of their seniors: Avalon Gook, Christina Reyes, Kayleigh Schultz, Megan Falcon, Morgan Jones, Calysa Toledo and graduate student Alyssa Schulte in their final home match of the 2021 season.

The match kicked off with the Anteaters’ possession. After an offensive movement toward Hawaii’s goal, the first scoring attempt was missed by junior utility Toni Shackelford. With Hawaii in possession of the ball, Irvine’s initially tight defense quickly vanished, leaving several attackers open to shoot. However, the Rainbow Warriors were unable to score after a lucky block by senior goalkeeper Morgan Jones.

The Anteaters couldn’t find the net throughout the entire first quarter, missing shots off the pole even when Hawaii’s junior goalkeeper, Danielle Brown, left the goal wide open. Generally, the Rainbow Warriors had more intent on offense which resulted in a 2-0 scoring lead. The ‘Eaters needed to amp up their defense if they wanted to get back in the game.

UCI’s first shooting attempt of the second quarter was squandered as senior attacker Megan Falcon missed both wide and long from the left wing. However, as the ball was turned over to the Warriors, the Anteaters were visibly more aggressive on their defense and stopped any chance for Hawaii to shoot. 

Irvine finally appeared on the scoreboard at 5:36 in the second period after a completed shot by redshirt sophomore center Piper Smith. Nevertheless, Hawaii converted the turnover into their third goal, made by redshirt sophomore Libby Gault. Hawaii led 3-1. 

The final four minutes of the second quarter were marked by exchanged goals from both teams. Shackelford found an open corner shot after being left unattended by a UH defender on the right wing to make the score 3-2 with UCI only down by one point. 

However, Gault sparked Hawaii’s momentum as she secured another point by forcefully bouncing the ball into the left vacant corner of the net. Irvine’s junior center Sarah Nichols came back with a long shot sailing from the point and into the goal. 

Another goal was completed by Rainbow Warrior’s Gault who was unattended again on the left wing and threw a cross shot into the upper right corner of the net, increasing the Rainbow Warriors lead to 5-3 at the end of the second period. 

Hawaii’s Lucia Gomez de la Puente, a freshman attacker, was the first player to make a goal in the third period at 6:35 with a cross court shot into the left corner of the cage. The Rainbow Warriors went on to score three more points during the quarter. On the other end, UCI’s Falcon and junior attacker Jessica Lynch managed two goals in the remaining six minutes. At the end of the third period UH was in the lead, 9-5.

After a nearly three minute scoring drought, Irvine’s Calysa Toledo, a senior attacker, was the first to score in the final period with a shot off the left post. The concluding goal of the match was Hawaii’s de la Puente to end the match at 10-6 with a Rainbow Warrior victory.

The leading scorers of the match were Gault, scoring four goals for the Rainbow Warriors, followed by De La Puente with two. Irvine split their six points evenly between six players. In the cage, ‘Eaters Jones and Schulte shared sixteen minutes each for the duration of the match. Starting goalkeeper Jones had a save percentage of .538 while Alyssa Schulte ended the match with a percentage of .429.

The Women’s Water Polo team will set off to Hawaii’s campus in Manoa for their final conference match of the season on April 16. There will be another match against the Rainbow Warriors on April 17 before the Big West championship on May 1 and 2. 

Gina Johnson is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at ginaj@uci.edu.