Despite Lopsided Score, Rams Played Tough Against Seasoned Merced College

The Women's Water Polo team and coaches do a team cheer at the end of the meet. Coach Phong Pham (and Assistant Coach Michael Tyler have helped team members build confidence , team spirit and comraderie over the duration of the season. Although they lost the match 19-5 against the Merced College Blue Devils, the team celebrated their steady improved from the begining of the season. Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

By Xela Vargas

 

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.

The Women’s Water Polo team and coaches do a team cheer at the end of the meet. Coach Phong Pham (and Assistant Coach Michael Tyler have helped team members build confidence , team spirit and comraderie over the duration of the season. Although they lost the match 19-5 against the Merced College Blue Devils, the team celebrated their steady improved from the begining of the season. Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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.

Exhaustion is one of the down sides to being on a smaller team. There are not enough members for backup positions so everyone is swimming for the duration of the meet. Samantha Vo (7) and Sarah Clayson (1) taking a break on the edge of the pool during the halftime of their match against the Merced College Blue Devils. Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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.

Rams Freshman Samantha Vo (7) blocking Julia Callahan (19) of Merced College Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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.

Rams coach Phong Pham signaling for a time out during the 3rd period against Merced College Blue Devils . Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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.

Water polo is a sport of many emotions. Team members taking a break at halftime during their match against Merced College, bottom to top, (9) Stefanie Narr, (8) Maggie Beaty, (10) Sarah Clayson, (11) and Olivia Gow-Smith (10). Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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.” 

Coach Phong Pham (l) and Assistant Coach Michael Tyler (r) speak with team members during halftime. They lost the match 19-5 against the Merced College Blue Devils . Despite the loss, the team greatly improved from the begining of the season. Team members pictured left to right: (9) Stefanie Narr, (8) Maggie Beaty, (10) Olivia Gow-Smith, (1) Sarah Clayson, (11) Stefania Giordano, and (15) Kim Stephens. Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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. 

Freshman Samantha Vo (7) attempts to make a goal during the match against the Merced College Blue Devils on Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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.” 

Freshman goal keeper Sarah Clayson returns the ball to play during the match against the Merced College Blue Devils on Friday, October 21, 2022 at the Wellness Center on Ocean Campus. Photo by Franchon Smith Special to The Guardsman.

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.