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San Diego, Calif. - The Pomona-Pitzer Women's Water Polo team came back from three different two-goal deficits to force overtime, but fell 12-8 to Iona in the seventh-place match of the NCAA Championships on Sunday at the San Diego State University Aztec Aquaplex.
The loss ends Pomona-Pitzer's season at 21-19, after it went a perfect 15-0 against Division III opponents (10-0 in the SCIAC). The Sagehens had won five of those 10 SCIAC matches in overtime, but this time, it was Iona who was able to come away with the win in the extra sessions.
Pomona-Pitzer had seven different players score goals, led by two from freshman Mahalia Prater-Fahey (San Diego, Calif.), who was making a return to her hometown for the NCAA's. Junior goalie Sarah Tuggy (Los Angeles, Calif.) had 12 saves, including several key ones to keep the Sagehens in striking distance.
The Sagehens never led in the game, but nearly had a furious rally to steal the win in the closing minutes of regulation. Pomona-Pitzer was down 8-6 with under three minutes left, when freshmna Vicky Gyorffy (Sacramento, Calif.) took a pass in front and lobbed a shot over the Iona goalie and into the net to cut the lead to 8-7 with just 2:24 remaining.
Iona then had a chance to put the game away with a clean breakaway on a counter, but Tuggy came up with the save of the match lunging to her left to keep the Sagehens within a goal. Freshman Alyssa Woodward (Riverside, Calif.) then knotted the game up with 1:16 left at 8-8, and Tuggy made another big save on Iona's next possession.
Woodward seemed to have a good look on the counter-attack to give the Sagehens the lead with 30 seconds left, but her shot was tipped by an Iona defender off the crossbar and out of bounds. Pomona-Pitzer retained possession with a chance to hold for the last shot, but Iona's pressure defense kept the Sagehens on the perimeter and they were unable to get a shot off.
In overtime, Tuggy made another point-blank save and the Sagehens drew an exclusion, but turned the ball over on a crossing pass, and Iona scored on the counter-attack. The Gaels added another goal on a penalty shot in the final minute of the first overtime, putting Pomona-Pitzer down by two for the fourth time. This time, though, the comeback was not in the cards, as Prater-Fahey ripped a backhand off the crossbar and senior Perri Hopkins (Agoura, Calif.) had a shot saved on a 6-on-5 with Pomona-Pitzer in hurry-up mode.
Iona capped off the scoring with a lob shot in the middle of the second overtime, and an empty-netter in the final seconds, making the final score 12-8.
In addition to the late comeback, Pomona-Pitzer trailed 2-0 early before rallying to tie the score 2-2 at the end of the first quarter, then trailed 5-3 at the half before coming back to tie the score 6-6, and then trailed 8-6 before coming back to force overtime.
Erika Lauraitis scored a game-high four goals for the Gaels. Joining Prater-Fahey (two goals) in the scoring column for the Sagehens were Gyorffy, Hopkins, Woodward, Annie Oxborough-Yankus (Wallingford, Conn.), Chrissie Alving-Trinh (Fresno, Calif.), and Sarah Westcott (Menlo Park, Calif.). Westcott was the only Sagehen to score in all three games in the NCAA Tournament.
Pomona-Pitzer was making its fourth NCAA appearance in the last six years, tallying two seventh-place and two eighth-place finishes. The final game each year has been dramatic, with the first three decided by one goal, and this year's going to overtime.
The Sagehens return most of its line-up next season, but will miss senior captains Oxborough-Yankus, the 2012 SCIAC Player of the Year, and Hopkins, a 2011 first-team Division III All-American.