The No. 4 ranked University of Hawai‘i Rainbow Wahine water polo team (14-5) played an aggresively defensive game of the season this Thursday evening and defeated the No. 7 UC Irvine Anteaters (11-9), 3-2 at the Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex.
“This is the best defensive game you can have in water polo,” starting goaltender Ymane Hage said. “Winning 3-2 is incredible and the girls were there [defensively] all night. I love to play with pressure and it’s an awesome feeling knowing they only put two goals in.”
In what was a tightly contested game throughout, both teams went scoreless during the first period. Freshman utility Femke Aan eventually put in UH’s first goal two minutes into the second quarter for the ‘Bows.
Her goal was the only one of the half. And despite the lead, it tied Hawai‘i’s lowest scoring half of the season.
The Anteaters finally found the scoreboard through an unusual attempt. UCI’s Emily Carlson lobbed a long shot over the head of Hage to tie the game at 1-1, with 1:18 left in the third quarter.
To begin the fourth quarter, UH and UCI both traded goals down the stretch. Junior center Nikki-Marie Bell found good position on a shot inside to give Hawai‘i the lead early on, but UC Irvine came back when Destene Albers scored on a rare fast-break, tying the game, 2-2.
Both teams had more opportunities late in the game, but failed to convert. Eventually the Wahine gained possession with just 43 seconds left, causing UH head coach Maureen Cole to call for a timeout.
Knowing they could run the clock out, the ‘Bows passed the ball around for 30 seconds. Eventually they got it inside to leading scorer and attacker Irene Gonzalez, who put away the game winning goal with just 13 seconds left.
“[On that final possession], we had a set play and wanted to make sure that if we got a ball into two meters we could get a hard move,” Cole said. “Having a six on five, we needed to be smart and not shoot it quick because we could kill the clock. So we were composed, took the late shot, and got the win.”
Next up, the Rainbow Wahine take on No. 10 UC San Diego in what will be the third match of their current five game home-stand. The match will take place on Saturday, Mar. 26 and is set to begin 12 p.m. HST.