PASADENA (Mar. 5, 2019) – The Caltech women's water polo team clicked on both sides of the ball to sink Penn State University Behrend for its first win in nearly two years and the first over the Lions in three years. Both teams also contended with a one-hour lightning delay midway through the fourth quarter.
"Our seniors really showed up for us tonight and I can safely say we saw some great water polo both in the pool and on the stat sheet," Head Coach Jon Bonafede said. "All three of the seniors had huge nights for us and we're still getting back to full strength in that regard. I am excited to get everybody back and once we do I think we'll continue to be a fun team to watch."
The Beavers picked a good time to play their best game of water polo in 2019, in front of an Orange Out crowd that filled the pool deck. The Lions jumped out to a two-goal lead but Caltech responded with 10 first-half goals to overwhelm the visiting team and enter uncharted territory as the Beavers went into the locker room with their first half-time lead of the season. Senior center Brittany Percin (Lake Tahoe, Calif. / Stanford Online) got Caltech on the board with its first goal and classmate Katie Johnston (Livermore, Calif. / Livermore) followed up with a goal of her own on a nice pass from junior Gabriella Chan (Colleyville, Texas / School for the Talented and Gifted). Johnston went on to score the Beavers' next three goals while senior Michelle Zhao (San Diego, Calif. / Canyon Crest Academy) and freshman Yuying Lin (Scarborough, Ontario / Victoria Park C.I.) added to Caltech's lead with deep lob goals from the right-center part of the pool, both of which curled into the left side of the net.
When the scoreboard turned to the second half, Caltech tightened up defensively and showed a determination not to break as the visiting Lions began to bring the offensive and defensive pressure. Johnston and Percin each had three steals to keep the visitors at bay and freshman Sophie Devoe (La Jolla, Calif. / Bishop's) continued her momentum through the second half with a big goal in the third period to break up a Penn State Behrend run. Freshman Zoe Rock (Chappaqua, N.Y. / Horace Greeley) also provided Caltech with one of its top individual performances on the night, making a career-high 10 saves while adding a big steal late in the game to keep the Lions in check.
"I was very happy to see Zoe get her first win," Bonafede said. "She came up huge when we needed her with big saves, big steals and did so without turning the ball over. It's been great to see her develop and she looks more and more natural in the cage every time we play."
Lightning came into play with just over six minutes to go in regulation. Following a near-one hour delay, Caltech resumed play without having missed a beat. The Beavers continued to defend the Lions with clean pressure and with just under three minutes to go, Percin, along with junior Mackenzie Wooten (Las Vegas, Nev. / Northwest Career and Technical Academy), delivered exclamation-point strikes to put Caltech up three goals to cap the successful effort. The Beavers have looked like a different team with Percin in the pool, as the senior has averaged two goals per game while maintaining a consistent presence on defense and on sprints. Johnston, meanwhile, has 19 goals in six games and is on pace to break her own personal scoring record. Caltech's captain also had four assists to go with her six goals, making up one of her best all-around offensive games in recent memory.
Bonafede and the Beavers will look to continue their sound play when they host the University of La Verne on Wednesday, Mar. 6 at 7 p.m.