NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Honoring six graduating players today, the Iona women’s water polo team celebrated with two conference wins over Virginia Military Institute and Villanova University in hosting six Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matches today.
Prior to the Villanova match, Iona head coach Brian Kelly recognized graduating seniors Dana Andrea, Sarah Bortz, Meghan Mahoney, Rebecca Matthews, Taylor Silva, and sophomore Brittany Toro, who will earn her degree after two years as a Gael.
The Gaels finished the regular season 12-14 overall, and 8-4 in MAAC play to secure the third seed in the MAAC championships. Iona will face number-two seed and host Marist College in the semifinals at Poughkeepsie on Saturday, April 20.
GAME 1: Iona 22 VMI 12
Mathews celebrated her senior day with a career-high nine goal on nine shots to lead Iona to a 22-12 win over VMI in today’s opening match.
Mahoney had three goals, while Bortz, sophomore Hannah Schultz, sophomore Kayla Allen, and sophomore Devika Joshi hit two scores apiece. Junior Rebecca Koshy, junior Darby Nevins had one goal each. Andrea dished out six assists, and won two of four swim-offs.
In goal, freshman Jordin Hale has six saves and one steal, and in the second half, sophomore Britten Vilander had two saves and one assist. Freshman Andrea Guerra had one save in the closing four minutes.
On defense, the Gaels made 16 steals with three by Mahoney; the team added in two blocks. Iona drew eight VMI ejections, while being kicked out 14 times. Iona capitalized on six of seven man-up opportunities, while VMI made five of 14.
In the first four minutes, Iona jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals two consecutive Mathews goals, then VMI got on the board with 3:30 left in the first period. Schultz put Iona up 3-1 1:04 later, followed by Mathews and Joshi for a 5-1 Iona edge going into the second period.
The Keydets scored on their opening second-quarter possession, but Schultz put the Gaels up 6-2 with 7:06 left in the half. VMI got within three with 6:34 to go, but Mathews hit two more straight scores in the next 2:21 as Iona went ahead 8-3. Rallying with two unanswered goals, VMI closed within three again 8-5 with 3:30 remaining. In the closing minute, the Gaels outscored the Keydets 2-1 on goals from Matthews and Mahoney at the buzzer to lead 10-6 at intermission. Mathews scored on all of her five shots in the first half.
Iona outscored VMI 7-2 in the third period with single goals from Mahoney, Nevins, Joshi, Bortz, and Allen, while Matthews had two scores. In the fourth period, Iona had goals from Mathews, Bortz, Mahoney, and five-meter penalty scores from Koshy and Allen, while VMI had four goals.
GAME 2: Iona 8 Villanova 7
After leading at halftime, then losing that edge by getting shut out in the third quarter, Iona rallied with a three unanswered goals in the final period, including the game-winning score with 15 minutes left, for a dramatic 8-7 win over Villanova.
Leading the Gaels with two goals each were Koshy, Schultz and Allen, who scored the game-winning goal. Mathews and Silva had one goal each.
Freshman goalie Jordin Hale had seven saves and one steal. On defense, the Gaels made 15 steals, including five each from Bortz and Andrea, and two blocks. The Gaels capitalized on one of six man-up opportunities, while the Wildcats made two of six. Andrea won all four swimoffs.
Villanova struck first with 2:35 gone in the match. After Mahoney missed a five-meter penalty shot, Silva scored on a breakaway for a one-one tie, followed by Schultz’s first goal on the Gaels next possession to take the lead 2-1 with 2:06 left in the opening period. Koshy needed only a minute to hit two unanswered scores putting the Gaels up 4-1 going into the second quarter.
With steals, turnovers and missed shots by both squads, Villanova finally scored with 4:39 gone in the second period to pull within two 4-2. The Wildcats struck again to trim the Iona edge to one 4-3 with 42 seconds left to halftime, but Allen answered with 19 ticks on the clock to give the Gaels a 5-3 lead at intermission.
In the third period, the Villanova offense scored four consecutive goals to tie, then pull ahead 7-5 going into the final quarter. But Kelly’s squad rallied with three unanswered goals in the fourth period, while shutting down the Wildcat offense. Just 43 seconds into the final period, Schultz’s second goal pulled Iona within one 7-6, then Mathews tied the score at seven with 1:02 left on a 6-4 advantage. After Kelly called timeout with 23 ticks left, Allen needed only seven seconds to seal the win. A last-second Wildcat shot hit the left post to secure the Gael win.
Kelly praised his squad’s come-from-behind victory as “some momentum” heading into the MAAC championships.
“Always nice to end your season with some momentum,” Kelly said. “Villanova is as solid as they come. They did a tremendous job against us defensively all day. It was a great comeback win in a hard-fought game; Kayla Allen hit a big shot. We’re looking forward to MAACs.”