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Women’s water polo secures four wins in Bruno Classic

Bears see success despite missing starters

<p>Despite initial challenges, starters of the Bears testing positive for COVID-19 presented an opportunity for younger players to demonstrate their abilities with more playing time.</p>

Despite initial challenges, starters of the Bears testing positive for COVID-19 presented an opportunity for younger players to demonstrate their abilities with more playing time.

The women’s water polo team (5-5) hosted the Bruno Classic at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center over the weekend. The Bears went 4-2 during the three-day event that featured ten other teams.

Brown opened the event with a 12-10 win over California Baptist University (3-7). The Bears went on a 4-0 run in under two minutes toward the end of the first half with two goals by Lily Weiser ’23, the first of her 11 total at the Bruno Classic. After a total of nine goals were scored in the third quarter, the Lancers trailed by two. California Baptist stayed hot with an early fourth quarter goal to bring them within one, but two consecutive goals by Sierra Martin ’24 were enough to secure a win for Brown.

The Bears were forced to adapt coming into the game after four starters tested positive for COVID-19. Head Coach Felix Mercado said the challenge gave the team a chance to demonstrate its depth.

“It was almost the best thing that happened to our team because it allowed the coaching staff to really look at our athletes and see if people were ready for the moment,” Mercado said. “We were really surprised (at) how well the younger athletes did.”

Brown continued its success with three wins in three games Saturday. After falling to a 4-1 deficit early in the second quarter in Saturday morning’s match against La Salle University (3-6), the Bears came back to even the score at seven with just over a minute left in the game. Back-to-back Brown goals pulled the Bears ahead, leading to a 9-8 win.

The late afternoon contest against Pomona-Pitzer (2-6) needed overtime play for a winner to be called. At the end of regulation, the score was tied at six. The Sagehens scored two goals at the end of the first overtime period, but Brown responded with a pair of goals within a minute of each other to tie the game. Just 40 seconds later, Martin found the back of the net to give the Bears another 9-8 win. 

Although Weiser believed the team needed to “learn how to maintain momentum” and “be patient and look for the best opportunities on offense,” Brown’s weekend success made her “really excited to keep playing.”

“This weekend I definitely learned this team has such a great mentality and everyone wants to do well in every game,” Weiser said. “Everyone’s doing their best always, which I think is really exciting.”

The Bears closed the day with a dominant 15-7 win over Siena College (0-3), which started with a strong 6-1 first quarter. Although the Saints outscored Brown in the second quarter, another 6-1 quarter in the third diminished any chance of a Siena comeback. Zoe King ’23, who led the Bears with 15 total goals in the Bruno Classic, scored four goals in two straight games against Pomona-Pitzer and Siena. She added yet another four-goal showing Sunday morning.

“I think we did really well,” King said. “(Even) if we’re losing, we try to pull through the entire game.”

Brown finished the weekend with two losses Sunday, the first against Long Island University (4-2). After the Bears found themselves in a six-goal deficit in the second quarter, the team was able to narrow the Sharks’ lead to four by halftime. Three fourth-quarter goals by King put Brown within one goal of Siena with only 52 seconds remaining, but a late score by the Sharks stifled the Bears’ comeback attempt, handing Brown a 14-12 loss. 

“To rally back and only give up (eight) goals the rest of the way just shows, defensively, we definitely found our identity,” Mercado said. “We also saw that we need to be more consistent offensively. If our power play was better in the second half, especially the fourth quarter, we could’ve won that game.”

The Bears fell to Wagner College (10-2) in their final match of the weekend. Coming into the match, Wagner had scored an average of almost 18 goals per game and won all of its weekend games.

Brown led 5-4 at the end of the first half, but an unanswered three-goal run by the Seahawks put the Bears down two. A 16-minute scoring drought ultimately led to an 8-6 Brown loss. 

“I think our defense was a highlight because we really didn’t give up,” Mercado said. “We didn’t give up too many goals, especially against a high powered team like Wagner.”

King credited the way “the underclassmen really stepped up” over the course of the weekend. Weiser also lauded the strength of the team’s bench, saying “we’re really lucky that we have a very deep team this year.”

“I think we were all a little nervous going into the weekend, but we were able to play as a team and keep a really good mindset going into each game,” Weiser said. “I think we were able to stay strong even when we were very tired.”

The Bears will next head to Santa Clara, Calif. to participate in the Santa Clara Spring Tournament from Feb. 19 to 20.

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