CMS, PP co-host 27 teams at annual Convergence water polo tournament

Brienz Lang PO ’26 gets ready to shoot during their 13-5 loss to UC Santa Barbara. Courtesy Sagehen Athletics

The near-constant sound of the buzzer echoed all across the 5Cs last weekend as Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) and Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) women’s water polo teams hosted their annual Convergence tournament.

The tournament drew 27 teams from around the country and across all NCAA divisions to Southern California to play in a total of 53 matches in two days. 

CMS and P-P faced a mix of top-ranked Division I and Division III teams. Both the Sagehens and the Athenas came away from the tournament with two wins and two losses against some common opponents. 

They each lost to DI No. 2-ranked USC (P-P lost 21-6, CMS lost 17-8) and beat DI unranked Iona University (P-P won 12-9, CMS won 15-4). In CMS’ other two games, they lost to DI No. 15 University of the Pacific 15-9 and beat DIII No. 8 Augustana College 21-13. PP lost to DI No. 10 UC Santa Barbara 13-5 and beat DI No. 22 Long Island University 13-11. 

The tournament came early in the water polo season, with most teams’ conference play beginning on March 6. According to Elise Whitworth ’26, a driver for Cal State East Bay, the tournament provided a good opportunity to strengthen their team chemistry as they head into the regular season.

“I think this is a great experience for us,” Whitworth said. “We’ve had some growing pains as a team this tournament, but it’s all just to get ready for conference which is coming up really soon. It helps to play new teams and also teams that we’re going to see again during conference, so it’s been a great way to prepare.”

The growing pains Whitworth was referencing came in the form of close losses Friday night to Concordia-Irvine (14-11) and Saturday morning to Azusa Pacific (12-11). She said that the quick turnaround between games in a tournament like this allows the team to test out new strategies on the fly and refine their tactics quickly.

“We had a conversation last night coming off [the] loss against Concordia, and we just talked about not letting them come back after we score a goal and keeping our intensity high straight from the beginning of the game,” Whitworth said. “We still have to work on getting our goal and getting back and focusing on defense so that they can’t get the next one.” 

East Bay was able to implement that strategy for their last game of the tournament, a 21-8 win against Chapman, who they will face again later this season during conference games. 

Kasey Markell ’24, a 2-meter defender for Chapman, said that while the result against East Bay wasn’t what they had hoped for, the game was beneficial in other ways. 

“We’re playing them again later this season,” Markell said. “We’re really excited to see how we’ve improved over time… it was really good to just get our team in those clinch moments and just see what we can do when we’re tired and pushing through.” 

For many teams, the tournament was the last in a series of pre-season tournaments typically used by programs to get some experience under their belts. 

According to Marija Mijuskovic ’25, a utility player for Biola, aside from conference preparation, the tournament provided a great opportunity for teams to get to know each other outside of the pool. 

“[We’ve been] traveling almost every weekend,” Mijuskovic said. “[Our] first tournament was in Arizona, so it was a farther trip. Then we’ve been to Fresno … [traveling is] always fun — it helps us build team chemistry. We always do some fun activities outside of the pool.”

“Traveling with your team is the absolute best,” Markell added. “There’s nothing that beats it. It’s so cool to be able to have time in the car with each other, listening to music we like or just talking about the game strategy as we’re walking up. It really helps with our chemistry in the pool in ways that you just can’t get otherwise.”

A few schools, such as Biola and Chapman, only had a 30-minute drive to Claremont, while other teams had to travel much further. One such team was Cal State East Bay. However, Whitworth said she enjoys the travel time with her team.

“I feel like my favorite memories that I’ve made this season were from when we were traveling and having late nights together,” Whitworth said. “We can hang out in the hotel room, and it’s really fun.”   

Whitworth and East Bay combined strategizing and team bonding in one of their final activities of the tournament: being match spectators together. 

“We watched Biola play because they’re in our conference,” Whitworth said. “We’ll be playing them in the next couple of weeks for conference, so that’ll be a big game that I’m looking forward to.” 

Markell said the weekend of water polo provided a great opportunity for teams to get to know one another.   

“I think it’s just super cool to see so many teams across so many divisions competing in the same places and getting to know each other in different ways,” Markell said. “It’s so cool.”

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