With an increased amount of home games this season, IU water polo has more chances to defend its pool. This weekend, they did exactly that.
“In the games we fought hard and we worked our butts off,” IU Coach Ryan Castle said. “So I’m proud of them for that. I think as we get used to playing at home a bit more, we’re definitely going to make this a really challenging place for anyone to come and play.”
After blitzing Toronto University, 19-4, in an exhibition on Saturday, No. 12 IU proceeded to knock off No. 14 UC Santa Barbara, 7-6, later that night for IU’s biggest win of the young season.
Sophomore attacker Mollie Williams paced IU with four goals — including two from improbable range — and UCSB failed to score in the fourth quarter as IU came back from a 6-5 deficit to claim victory.
“In those games, you have to take risks,” Williams said. “Santa Barbara is a team that does take those 50-50 shots, so I needed to do the same if we wanted to match them.”
After IU conceded four times in the third quarter, Castle implored his team to get back on track and his team responded. IU played good defense and was able to frustrate the UCSB attack that had been in full throttle only minutes before.
“I told them to get back to what our bread and butter had been in the first half,” Castle said. “When we let them swim at us, they scored a whole bunch of goals, so when we started swimming at them, we put them on the back foot.”
In Sunday’s opening game, IU knocked off No. 25 Iona on the back of strong performances from sophomore attacker Megan Abarta, senior defender Kelly Matthews, and junior defender Karrie Kozokar.
Abarta and Matthews both scored four goals against the Gaels, and Kozokar bagged a hat-trick in the 17-8 win. Abarta’s four goals set a career high for goals in a single game, bettering her previous high of two.
IU closed the weekend with a matchup against McKendree, and they finished on a high note by knocking off the Bearcats, 14-3, in a dominating performance on both ends of the pool. Abarta led the way offensively for the second consecutive game, as she bagged another hat trick, pushing her tournament total to seven. Kozokar, Matthews, freshman driver Juli Hilovsky, sophomore driver Emily Powell and freshman attacker Jennifer Hanling all scored two goals each.
The final game against McKendree was a career day for senior attacker Sarah Myers. Myers racked up six steals, which topped her previous career best of four. Juli Hilovsky also had a career day, as her two goals was the first multi-goal game of her IU career. Hanling also opened her account by scoring the first two goals of her young career against McKendree.
IU will take this weekend off before heading back out to California for the Triton Invitational in San Diego on Feb. 10. IU’s next home game will be March 3, as they will host Hartwick in their first conference game of the season