Despite a 19-5 loss against Merced College, the City College’s women’s water polo team walked away from the pool in high spirits.
As the Rams exited the pool with flowers in hand and smiles across their faces, you wouldn’t have guessed the outcome of the game.
Merced held several advantages over the Rams — they hold second place in the conference, have a team of 16 experienced players compared to the Rams’ eight, and have played 21 games this season compared to City College’s four.
The Rams played strong offense in the first period with players Stephanie Narr (#9), Olivia Gow-Smith (#10), and Taylor Naughton (#13) scoring three goals that narrowed Merced’s lead to 10-3 at the end of the first period.
During the second period Merced continued to play strong offensively, as the Rams began to find their footing defensively, closing the second period with a 17-3 Merced lead.
After a tough first half, there was an obvious shift in City College’s defensive energy for the third period. Head Coach Phong Pham said the team found their groove. It showed with Merced only scored two more goals to close out the third period for a 19-4 a lead.
With only one substitute available, most of Rams team played the entire game. Toward the end of the fourth period Naughton picked up the Rams’ first and only foul. Then, with just three minutes left on the clock, Narr was able to intercept a Merced pass and quickly directed it to Naughton who pased it to Maggie Beatty (#8) who fired a shot past the Meced goalie for the Rams’ fifth goal of the game.
After the Rams exited the pool and gave their high-fives, Coach Pham held a large bouquet of red and white flowers and the team posed happily for the season’s last team photo at home.
“I am very proud with the team’s continued effort, improvement, and positive attitude,” Pham said. “We had a challenging and short season. We almost didn’t have a team, but these courageous young ladies came through to commit and participate.”
Pham also said that after the pandemic, he noticed that interest in water polo fell across the state. He said five of the 11 state conference teams couldn’t staff a team – even teams who were once considered to be the strongest.
City College’s women’s water polo team, according to Coach Pham, almost didn’t happen this year, just barely making it with nine of the required seven players. Of the nine players, seven have never played a competitive sport and half of the team began the season not knowing how to swim.
With a grin still on her face, Naughton was positive about the team’s play. “It felt good. This was the most fun game we’ve played – everyone was loose and played well. One of the referees even complimented us on our improvement.”
As for it being the last home game, she added: “It’s really sad, I have to say bye to Maggie (Beatty #8) and it’s emotional to say bye — it’s saying bye to home where we spend nearly half of our time.”
The Rams, who hold a 0-4, play their final game of the season on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 3 p.m. at the College of Marin.