There is no “I” in the word “team.” The California Lutheran University Regals water polo team proved that during their Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference semifinal and championship victories this past weekend.
After beating Whittier College 12-7 in the semifinal on Friday, April 26, the Regals went on to earn themselves the title of SCIAC champions for the second time in program history.
Cal Lutheran beat the previously undefeated Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens 10-9 after a back-and-forth battle on Sunday, April 28.
Despite senior goalkeeper Bailey Meyer eclipsing over 900 career saves and senior Mardell Ramirez finding the back of the net five times during the Friday semifinal, both players and coaches attributed their success to strong team chemistry.
“It’s a really close-knit group of girls, and they just worked hard, you know— especially the seniors over the course of four years. They’ve just been so diligent in their effort and I thought we were really prepared today,” Head Coach Craig Rond said.
The Regals quickly set the tone of the game. Within 30 seconds of the opening whistle, Ramirez tossed one passed the Whittier goalkeeper and gave the Regals the starting momentum they needed to take down the Poets.
Ramirez earned a hat-trick before the end of the first period, scoring her third goal with 1 minute and 17 seconds left.
The Poets were able to even the score early in the second period at 3-3. Goalkeeper Meyer became a brick wall as she refused the Poets another goal until midway through the fourth period.
“It really helps to have some of the best shooters in conference to practice shooting on me…I really depend on my defense, and I depend on these girls a lot so they can funnel the ball straight to me and so I can make saves,” Meyer said.
Meyer earned First Team All-SCIAC honors earlier this week, and totaled 16 saves in Friday’s victory. The game also included a shutout in the third period where she earned eight of those saves.
Coming into the game, Meyer only needed six more saves to break Cal Lutheran’s all-time record. Ending the game with 904 total saves in her four seasons, Meyer is the first Regal goalkeeper ever to have more than 900 saves in a career.
“We’ve been counting it and knew it was coming…the list of goalies we’ve had here are, I mean, there’s been a lot of really good goalkeepers and so for her to do that with still another game has been really great,” Coach Rond said.
Along with Meyer’s shutout in the third period, juniors Christin Hirn and Mackenzie Thomas added goals of their own giving them a comfortable lead 8-4.
In the opening of the final period, Thomas found wide open junior Victoria Rose Meek, who gave the Regals another goal to separate them from the Poets.
With stats to go around for the Regals, the win was definitely a team effort. Five different Regals would get goals in Friday’s match including sophomore Jessica Diaz, who totaled four of her own. Hirn and Thomas earned all three of the Regals’ assists.
“When you’re close with your team and you can trust your team, it makes passing, it makes shooting. Like we all have each others backs in the pool…it plays a really large role in our connection in and out of the pool,” Thomas said.
The Regals traveled to Pomona-Pitzer Sunday at 2 p.m. to face the undefeated Sagehens in the SCIAC Championship.
After the Regals’ semifinal victory, Meyer showed her drive to take that title away from the Sagehens.
“I really want Cal Lu to be the ones to take down Pomona-Pitzer,” Meyer said.
Two days later, the Regals did just that.
Six Regals added points to the board, helping the team outscore the Sagehens by just one goal.
First-year center Lexi Rond earned herself a hat-trick and tied the game up at 9-9 with less than 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Hirn followed with the 10th and winning goal with 3:18 left in the game.
The defense continued to hold the Sagehens to 9 points for the rest of the game.
The victory marks the Regals’ first SCIAC Championship win in 10 years.
Finishing the season with a 21-8 record, the Regals will continue on to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.