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CMS went to OT in the finals in its first USA Water Polo DIII appearance
CMS went to OT in the finals in its first USA Water Polo DIII appearance

CMS Women's Water Polo Rallies to Force OT, But Falls 14-13 in National Finals

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women's water polo team trailed 11-5 late in the first half to Pomona-Pitzer, and came all the way back to tie it on a goal from Cooper McKenna with four seconds left, but the Sagehens were able to get the winning goal early in the second overtime session for a 14-13 win in the USA Water Polo Division III National Championship match on Sunday at Augustana.

With the loss, CMS concludes its season at 19-11 after competing in the USA Water Polo Division III nationals for the first time. Pomona-Pitzer defended its 2022 title, which it earned with a win over Whittier. 

McKenna finished with five goals, including the tying goal on a penalty shot with four seconds left in regulation to knot the score 12-12. She added another penalty goal in the first overtime session to tie it 13-13, but Alexandra Szczerba scored on the first possession of the second overtime, and it held up the rest of the way. Dara Schoolcraft had a big steal to set up one final CMS possession, and Mia Adsen came close to tying it, but had her shot hit off the crossbar and bounce away, where the Sagehens pulled it in and killed off the final seconds.

Natalie Stearns had a huge effort in goal after taking over at halftime, tallying seven goals and two steals while allowing only one goal in the entire second half, as CMS came back from 11-6 at the break to tie it 12-12 at the end of regulation. 

Adsen beat the halftime buzzer to get CMS within 11-6, and the Athenas then outscored Pomona-Pitzer 4-0 in the third quarter to get back to within 11-10. McKenna scored 2:10 into the third to make it 11-7, and Christina Kulick scored just over one minute later to close the gap to three. Adsen scored a power play goal with 32 seconds left, Stearns had a save, and Caitlin Muñoz managed the second buzzer-beater for CMS in as many quarters to cap a 5-0 run and make the score 11-10. 

Pomona-Pitzer scored on the first possession of the fourth quarter to get the lead back to two, but Schoolcraft came up with a big goal with 2:41 to go. With CMS down to its final possession, Adsen drew an exclusion with 23 seconds left and Kulick drew a five-meter with six seconds left. McKenna took the shot and was able to get it past Pomona-Pitzer goalie Zosia Amberger to force overtime.

Adsen and Muñoz each tallied three goals for CMS, while Grace Clark had a team-high three assists and Schoolcraft finished with four steals. 

Kulick and McKenna represented the Athenas on the All-Tournament Team. CMS will set its sights on returning to the USA Water Polo Championships next season and pursuing a national title, after losing only Kulick and Jessi Beyer off of this season's squad.