STOCKTON - The Pacific women’s water polo team didn’t waste any time Saturday.
Playing in their final home match of the season, which happened to be senior day, the No. 7 Tigers jumped out to a 7-1 lead after a period of play on the way to an 18-8 rout of No. 25 Fresno State at Chris Kjeldsen Pool.
Sophomore teammates Kyra Christmas and Mariana Duarte scored five goals each for Pacific (14-7, 7-0 Golden Coast Conference), with Christmas adding four assists and Duarte adding three. Viktoria Szmodics and Rachel Krieger each scored twice, with Szmodics contributing two assists and Karolina Hlavata adding three of her own.
The win was the Tigers’ fourth straight, and it came hours after Friday night’s 13-10 win over San Diego State. Pacific head coach James Graham said he was happy with the team’s effort on a quick turnaround.
“We started off really intense, with good energy,” Graham said. “I thought we were a little more dialed in with our shooting, and I thought we finished a little better.”
Leading the offensive category, as they have for much of Pacific’s season, was the tandem of Christmas and Duarte. Both had already recorded a hat trick before the second period was over, helping the Tigers head into the break up 11-1.
“They’re two of the best shooters in the nation,” Graham said. “They do a lot for us. They’re great ball handlers and they have good vision. They’re able to draw a lot of attention and create opportunities for other players.”
The pair's scoring barrage ended with Christmas’ fifth goal to give Pacific a 15-4 lead early in the third. But they had already opened the waters for scores from other Tigers like Hlavata and Aelish Guinn, both seniors celebrating the day along with goalkeeper Alexis Hollinrake, Kennedy Watson and Krieger.
Christmas, who has played internationally with Team Canada, said playing alongside someone like Duarte, herself having played with the Brazil national team, definitely has its perks.
“We have really good rhythm together, and we get each other pumped,” Christmas said. “It’s nice.”
Pacific has one match left in the regular season, an April 21 contest at Santa Clara, before getting ready for the Golden Coast Championships starting April 27 in Los Angeles.
After a win like Saturday’s, Graham said he thinks the Tigers are close to where they want to be. The defense could be cleaned up a bit, he said, but this is a solid Pacific squad that can shut other teams down. The biggest key for the Tigers, according to Graham, is having the right mentality.
“We have to be comfortable in the big game atmosphere, and be ready to hit big shots,” Graham said, “because that’s what it’s going to take to win a title.”
Christmas, for one, seemed to be working on the same wavelength as her coach.
“For fine tuning, it’s about getting our defense kind of figured out a bit,” Christmas said. “And it’s mentally preparing for every match; taking every match as it comes and not thinking about the future, but staying in the moment.”
Contact reporter Nick Woodard at (209) 546-8272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@nwoodard25.