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Club Sports Notes: Women's water polo edged for regional title; nationals up next

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
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The UA played host this weekend to the Southwest Regional women's water polo meet in what was the Wildcats' final tune-up before the national championship tournament.

After dispatching Colorado College in the first round, top-seeded Arizona nipped Air Force in a 4-3 semifinal victory but fell to Utah 10-8 in the championship game.

Against Air Force, the Falcons seemed overmatched on both sides of the ball in the first half, as Arizona smothered them with a stifling defense, forcing rushed shots and turnovers.

Arizona's defensive intensity translated into instant offense, as the Wildcats tacked on three goals in the game's first five minutes two by team captain and All-Conference driver Edie Gobel.

"Edie has been awesome for us all season," said head coach Jeff Witmore. "She really stepped up on offense and defense today."

Weather became a factor in the second quarter. Both teams struggled to find offensive opportunities after the initial flurry of Wildcat goals, thanks in part to 18 mph winds.

The first Air Force goal came with less than two minutes left in the half, ending a seven-minute scoring drought.

The teams remained locked in a defensive struggle in the second half. Despite getting several good looks, Arizona was unable to capitalize.

Air Force cut the UA lead to one with the only goal of the third quarter.

"We were getting looks but we just weren't scoring," Witmore said. "It forced us to pick up our defensive intensity, which the girls did really well.

"Anytime you hold the highest scoring team in the league to three goals, it's commendable."

Air Force was never able to get any closer than a goal thanks to the aggressive UA defense. The Wildcats held on to earn a spot in Sunday's championship game.

In the next game, Arizona met Utah in the Wildcats' regional championship matchup. The title game saw much more offense than the previous afternoon's barnburner against the Falcons.

Utah jumped on the top-seeded Wildcats early and did not look back. The Utes were able to score on breakaway opportunities made available by an intense defense.

Arizona fought its way back from a 9-5 deficit after three quarters with a strong offensive attack in the final frame, led by Gobel and junior Kristin Taylor.

But the strong fourth quarter was too little too late.

Regardless, Arizona is still focused on winning this year's national championship.

"We have a great shot at winning nationals," Witmore said.

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