Walecka scores as time expires to give Pomona-Pitzer seventh-place win
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Sophomore Sallie Walecka, who began the year as a goalie, scored on a buzzer-beater from 10 meters to complete a 5-0 run in the final 4:30 as Pomona-Pitzer earned a thrilling 13-12 win against Iona in the seventh-place match at the NCAA Women's Water Polo Championships at Harvard University's Blodgett Pool on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Sagehens conclude the season with a 19-18 record and pick up their third NCAA tournament win in their history, all by one goal. Pomona-Pitzer also came in seventh place in 2007 with a 7-6 win against Wagner and in 2008 with a 7-6 win against Marist. Senior Sarah Tuggy had 15 saves in her final game for the Sagehens, including six in the fourth quarter to help set up the comeback.
Iona appeared to have the game under control when Meghan Mahoney scored to give the Gaels their largest lead at 12-8 with 4:44 left in the contest. However, freshman Katy Schaefer answered with a man-up goal at the 4:23 mark, her fifth goal of the game, to start the game-ending run.
After the Sagehens earned a stop and drew another exclusion, sophomore Chrissie Alving-Trinh scored from in front with 3:22 to go to suddenly pull the Sagehens within 12-10. On Pomona-Pitzer's next possession, sophomore Vicky Gyorffy had a lob shot hit the crossbar, but sophomore Alyssa Woodwardwas there to flip in the rebound and make the score 12-11 with 2:38 still on the clock.
The Sagehens nearly had the equalizer with 1:30 to go as Schaefer shook free in front of the goal and flipped the ball in, but she was called for a ball under violation in the battle for the loose ball and the goal was waved off. However, Pomona-Pitzer earned a steal and drew an exclusion, calling a timeout with 1:00 to go and a power play to try to tie.
The Sagehens got exactly what they wanted coming out of the timeout, as Woodward, the team's leading scorer (88 goals on the year) found some space from five meters out with a look straight at goal. She fired a bullet inside the left post, knotting the score up at 12-12 with 46 seconds left.
Iona called a timeout, but was unable to get a go-ahead shot off, as the Sagehens stole the ball and Woodward broke up the middle of the pool on a counter. Not wanting to shoot too soon and give Iona a chance to go the other way, Woodward pulled the ball out and threw it Schaefer on the right side of the pool.
Schaefer looked for her shot, but did not have an opening and threw a pass back up to the top to Walecka. With virtually no time left, Walecka let a shot go from 10 meters out that tucked just inside the right post as the horn sounded, giving the Sagehens the dramatic 13-12 win. Walecka was a back-up goalie a year ago and began this season in the same role, but due to some injuries, she converted to a field player a month into the campaign and ended up playing a key role in the team's offense late in the year.
Schaefer helped the Sagehens get off to a quick start with two five-meter shots in the first quarter, one drawn by Walecka and one by sophomore Sarah Westcott (Menlo Park, Calif.), to make the score 3-1. Iona, though, tied it at the end of the first quarter and took its first lead at 5-4 with 4:42 left in the second quarter on a goal from Amy Olsen. The Gaels took a 6-4 lead into the half, and scored the first goal of the second half, before Schaefer ended a long drought to make it 7-5 with 4:15 left in the third quarter.
The score was 9-8 after three quarters, as Schaefer scored with eight seconds left, but Iona scored the first three goals of the fourth to seemingly take control. However, the Sagehens dug deep and scored the final five goals of the game, with the last coming at the buzzer. A year ago, Iona defeated Pomona-Pitzer 12-8 in overtime in the seventh-place game, but this time Walecka's goal decided it in regulation.
The Sagehens return almost their entire team for next year, with the exception of Tuggy, who led Pomona-Pitzer to three NCAA tournament appearances in her four seasons. The late comeback enabled her to end her Sagehen career with her first NCAA win.