Alana Ponce was one of the best water polo players Gig Harbor High School has seen. In college, the goal-scorer has continued to thrive.
Ponce, a sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., was named to the All-College Water Polo Association Division I first team this spring, becoming the program’s first first-team all-conference selection since 2013.
“It was exciting,” said Ponce, who made the All-CWPA second team as a freshman. “I wasn’t expecting it. We kind of went through a tougher year and only had 13 girls on the team this year. So I was surprised.”
Ponce scored 48 goals and added 16 assists, a total of 64 points.
“This year, with the small number of girls we had on the team, it allowed me to take way more shooting opportunities,” Ponce said. “This year, I had guaranteed playing time. So I just had more opportunities to take shots that the seniors last year might have been taking instead.”
Ponce scored at least two goals in all six of George Washington’s wins, highlighted by a seven-goal effort in a win over St. Francis Brooklyn on Feb. 24.
“We are pleased that Alana has received this well-deserved recognition,” head coach Barry King said in a statement. “She consistently strives for making herself and her teammates better. This year, she has taken on a much larger leadership role, and she has flourished.”
George Washington posted a 6-15 record and was 1-5 in conference. That’s been something of an adjustment coming from Gig Harbor High, where Ponce and the Tides routinely blew out teams.
“Mentally, that was a hard adjustment,” Ponce said. “We have such great competition here, and you have to be mentally prepared to maybe not get the first goal. Just becoming a little tougher mentally and being ready to fight for the whole entire game.”
This season, Ponce has worked on being more assertive as the focal point of the team’s offense.
“I’ve told myself this year just to go for it,” Ponce said. “Last year, a couple of the seniors were always there to back me up and I knew if the ball bounces off the bar, someone will get it. I needed to tell myself, ‘You’re going to be the one to take the shots this year.’ I got over being scared of missing and being scared of my coach yelling at me. He put me in some good situations to succeed.”
Ponce said she’s grown “tremendously” as an attacking player in college and hopes to spur a turnaround for the program in her final two seasons of college.
“I think we’re going to grow the numbers with the team next year,” Ponce said. “Next year, having more players and more talent will help us have more confidence in those close games.”
Ponce said the school’s men’s water polo program has enjoyed plenty of success and is something the women’s team hopes to emulate.
“Just seeing them succeed and come out with (conference title) rings, that’s something that pushes us,” Ponce said.