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W. water polo waxes opposition to close out regular season

The No. 18 women's water polo team finished its regular season in dominant fashion by defeating three Northern Division opponents in recent competitions. The Bears downed Harvard 11-3 last Thursday, then on Saturday easily defeated Utica College, 20-2, and Queens College, 13-3. The three wins improved the team's record to 18-8 - 5-2 in the Northern Division with both division losses coming against No. 12 Hartwick College.

On Thursday, Brown jumped out to an early lead, scoring the game's first five goals. Claire Angyal '07 scored on a counterattack just 43 seconds into the game to give the Bears the lead, and Lauren Presant '10 added two quick goals to widen the lead to 3-0. Paige Lansing '07 struck with 5:06 remaining in the period, and Elizabeth Balassone '07 found the net with 3:56 remaining to give Bruno a 5-0 advantage. The Crimson got on the board before the end of the first quarter, but Brown never lost control of the game.

Only 38 seconds into the second quarter, Caitlin Fahey '07 scored to give the Bears a 6-1 lead, and just under a minute later Lansing's second goal made the score 7-1. After a Harvard goal cut the lead to 7-2, Fahey scored her second goal, and Presant added a third to give Brown a 9-2 halftime lead.

The Bears were held scoreless in the third, but in the final period Alexis Blaxberg '08 scored two goals to go along with her two steals, and Bruno cruised to an 11-3 victory.

In Saturday's first game, 12 players scored en route to a 20-2 rout of Utica. Goaltender Stephanie Laing '10 recorded eight saves and two steals to shut down the Pioneers' attack. On offense, Blaxberg had a team-high four goals. Herald Graphics Editor Roxanne Palmer '08, Kristin Cuthbertson '09 and Alexandra Ferguson '09 each contributed two goals and three assists.

"It's nice to have games like that, to help people get into a scoring rhythm and get more people involved in the rotation," said Head Coach Jason Gall. "My feeling is that the more people that can play in a game, the better, and the ideal situation is to have our starters as rested as possible for each game."

Against Queens, Brown struggled early, falling behind 2-0 in the first six minutes of the game. But the Bears quickly hit their stride and scored four goals in the final 1:56 of the first period to take a 4-2 lead. In the second quarter, Bruno shut out the Knights while adding five more goals to the lead to build a 9-2 halftime advantage.

Brown continued to control the game in the second half, and the team rolled to a 13-3 rout of Queens to finish the regular season on a high note, while giving the team abundant opportunities to refine its offensive strategy.

"We worked on our counterattack and making the extra cross pass to another player even if you are the one that is open," Blaxberg said. "It fakes the goalie out and almost guarantees a goal if it's a good pass."

Sarah Glick '10 led the Bears' attack with four goals, three assists and two ejections drawn, and Laing had another solid performance in the cage, again finishing with eight saves.

"Our coaches make sure we know what we're up against going into every game, and we adjust our defense accordingly," Laing said. "A part of any good defense is good communication, and that's something we're always looking to improve."

This weekend, the team will travel to New London, Conn., for the Northern Division Championship tournament, where Brown will have the No. 2 seed, with Hartwick at No. 1.

"We're really confident," Gall said. "We're not looking past any games, but we know that our goal is to beat Hartwick in the finals. We haven't been able to put together four good quarters against Hartwick, but our team likes challenges, and we've done a good job of rising to the occasion against strong teams."

The Bears have beaten several nationally ranked teams this season, and a Northern Division championship is very much within reach, according to the team members. This all comes during a season almost entirely devoid of any home matches due to the closing of the Smith Swim Center in mid-February.

"Not having a home pool has been difficult on all of us," Blaxberg said. "But the situation has made us stronger and closer as a team. We are confident and excited for Northerns. Hartwick is the team to beat, and now that we have played them twice, we know what we need to do in order to beat them."



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