CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's water polo team tied the score six different times before taking its first lead in the fourth quarter and held on to take a 9-8 home win over Chapman on Monday night at Axelrood Pool.
The win moves CMS into a three-way tie for third place in the SCIAC at 6-4 with Whittier and La Verne, who the Athenas face on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. The top four finishers receive bids to the SCIAC Tournament, and today's win gives CMS the chance to gain the upper hand on both Whittier and La Verne heading into the final week of the regular season. The Athenas have also seen six of their 10 SCIAC games this season decided by one goal, including both with Chapman after defeating the Panthers 10-9 nine days ago in Orange.
Sophomore Amelia Ayala had a team-high four goals on Monday night, after scoring five in the previous meeting with Chapman. Aracelia Aldrete had two goals, including the game-winner to break an 8-8 tie midway through the fourth, and freshman Emily McElroy also had two.
CMS did not lead until Ayala broke a 7-7 tie on the first possession of the fourth quarter with her fourth goal of the game on a 6-on-5. She also had the sixth different tying goal for the Athenas when she beat the buzzer with a long-distance lob shot to end the third quarter and give CMS a burst of momentum heading into the final eight minutes, scoring just 14 seconds after the Panthers went ahead on a penalty shot from Audrey Hattori.
Chapman responded to its first deficit of the game by tying the score 8-8 with 5:34 left, and had a chance to take the lead back, but freshman goalie Jessica Salaz made a key save on a Chapman 6-on-5 to keep it deadlocked. The Athenas then got their turn for a 6-on-5, and Aldrete fired in a shot from the left side of the cage to give CMS a 9-8 lead it would not relinquish.
Salaz came through with another big save, this time on a 6-on-4 after CMS had two exclusions called 15 seconds apart. The Panthers had one final chance in the final 20 seconds, but their shot sailed high and the Athenas were able to run out the clock.
Chapman took a 4-3 lead in the half, representing its fourth one-goal lead of the game. Ayala answered the first Panther goal, and freshman Alex Szymczak scored in the final minute of the first quarter to make it 2-2. McElroy scored her first of the game with 1:30 left to tie it 3-3 before Chapman closed out the first-half scoring.
The Panthers had the first goal of the second half for their only two-goal lead of the game, but Aldrete came back on the next possession to cut it to 5-4 on a 6-on-5, and McElroy scored her second of the game to erase the two-goal deficit and make it a 5-5 contest with 3:20 left in the third. Audrey Hattori put Chapman ahead 7-6 with 2:05 left before Ayala answered, then Hattori scored again on the penalty shot which Ayala answered with her buzzer-beater.
Salaz finished the game with seven saves for the Athenas, while Ayala led all scorers with four goals, eclipsing the three scored by Hattori for the Panthers.
CMS will be back in action at Whittier on Wednesday, which it fell to 7-6 in the first meeting, before hosting La Verne on Saturday at Axelrood Pool at 11 a.m.