If you're into symbolism, Diablo Valley College water polo goalie Katie Ramm's swollen left eye effectively summed up the Vikings' first loss after 14 consecutive wins this season.
The Vikings absorbed a blow, literally, less than a minute into a 14-11 defeat to visiting San Joaquin Delta in Wednesday's Big 8 Conference showdown.
Ramm, a transfer from Cal Poly and 2013 Acalanes High graduate, was inadvertently hit on a follow-through on a scoring shot by Delta. She left the game and headed to the emergency room with her parents, and was diagnosed with a scratched cornea.
The dramatic injury jolted the Vikings (14-1, 3-1), who quickly fell behind 6-2 in an otherwise even contest.
Delta (12-3, 4-0) moved into sole possession of first place, and DVC suffered just its second defeat in 42 games dating to the beginning of the 2014 season.
"It was our first loss this season, so it was kind of difficult, but I think it was also a wake-up call for us," Ramm said while sitting out Thursday's practice. "We have to go into every game as if it's our championship game."
Ramm understood the impact her injury had on her teammates.
"The first two minutes is so crucial … Their starting goalie's out in the first 30 seconds. You can tell that it just sends a shockwave through the team, and our nerves start getting the best of us," Ramm said. "It's going to be really important that we learn to play fluidly and play together as a team."
After finishing third in the state last year, the Vikings' returners came back with a common goal: win a state championship. That mindset hasn't changed. It's a dominant program with elite student-athletes.
The Vikings men's and women's water polo teams both figure to be showcased when the NorCal Regional playoffs come to DVC on Nov. 13-14.
"We were so close last year that that was our goal coming back," DVC captain Sarah Ward said of winning a state title. "A lot of the girls that played last year were, like, 'We've got to win it."
Perhaps Wednesday's rare defeat will prove to be a good thing for the long haul -- a chance for everyone to take a deep breath and reset.
"I think that we might actually have been a little bit thankful for the loss," captain Megan Dietrich said. "It showed us some of our weaker points."
After taking the hit, Ramm, the oldest of the team's solid trio of goalies, tried gallantly to stay in the game, but the injury was too serious.
"It was so frustrating," Ramm recalled. "That was my game (Wednesday). I was preparing for it since 8 a.m. in the morning."
Ward said losing such an important player "kind of threw us back a little bit, threw us for a loop."
One look at the Vikings' sharp practice on Thursday seemed to indicate that the setback was only a blip on the radar.