CMS water polo triumphs over Panthers, one step away from perfect season

Nick Kennedy rises up ready to throw ball
Nick Kennedy CM ’27 eyes a shot during a confident sweep of Chapman. Photo: Thomas Walker

Cats can’t swim … but apparently Stags can. The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) men’s water polo team continued their winning season with a dominant win over the Chapman Panthers on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The victory brought their overall record to 20-6, maintaining their perfect record within the SCIAC conference.

The game started off intense when Chapman scored a goal within the first 30 seconds of play. CMS soon bounced back with a point of their own from Luke Weigle CM ’25. A tiki-taka play to Weigle extended the Stags’ lead to 2-1, but a quick pass to the middle and an even quicker release from Chapman evened the score. The Panthers’ goalie blocked two shots in a row to keep the score even, but as a dogged effort from the Stags offense persisted, William Thomas CM ’24 eventually broke through, putting CMS up 3-2.

According to Thomas, the Stags have been focusing on putting pressure on their opponent from the first whistle and maintaining that offensive aggression for all four quarters.

“We have to put in effort from time zero,” Thomas said. “We need to work on the start of the game and make sure we are playing the same in the fourth quarter as we played in the first.”

The Panthers were not going to let the Stags win without a catfight. The second quarter began with a bar-down goal from Chapman, evening the score. A save from Aiden Nettekoven HM ’24 kept things knotted at three points each, but when the Panthers scored another goal on their next possession, they pushed them past the Stags 4-3. However, Kyle Ballack CM ’24 quickly evened the score, and Nick Kennedy CM ’27 capitalized on a kick-out resulting from a Chapman foul. The Stags quickly built off this momentum, scoring three times in a row to make it 8-4 going into the half.

Len Korol CM ’25 said CMS felt the Panthers’ respond to their pressure in the first half.

“I think sometimes in the first half we felt adversity, which was kind of scary,” Korol said. “We were prevented from reaching our full potential because we were concerned with the score and not playing as well as we wanted to.”        

At the start of the third quarter, Chapman scored first yet again. However, just like before, Kennedy responded quickly and extended the Stags’ lead to 9-5. Two strong blocks from Chapman’s goalie helped force a turnover, but the Panthers couldn’t execute, hitting the post on their next attack. Neither team managed to put the ball in the back of the net and the score remained 9-5 as the third quarter came to a close.

Despite a low-scoring third quarter, Koral said the Stags entered the final period proud of their play and how hard they fought.

“I’m proud of our cohesion and grit,” Koral said. “[Even though] we really had a tough time in the third quarter, it was somewhat of a battle … we stayed in the game and came ready to play.”

The lethargic stalemate in the third period carried into the fourth, which began with a scoreless stretch. However, Jeffery Koretz CM ’27 broke the lull and extended CMS’ lead to 10-5. Immediately following Koretz’s goal, Korol tacked on another. Perking up, the Stags continued their scoring streak with a throw-in from Auggie Aliago CM ’24 and a commanding score from Eli Schwarz HM ’24. The Panthers were unable to recover from the onslaught of CMS goals, and the match ended 16-5.

Nettekoven said this victory and the season overall are extra special to him as a senior.

“This is my last season and I’m excited that it’s one to go out with a bang on,” Nettekoven said. “At this point in time, we have put in so much effort and we’ve been trying so hard. The potential for our season to go undefeated is damn near close.”

The Stags will attempt to finish their season with a perfect SCIAC record when they hit the road to face Redlands this Saturday at 11 a.m in their final regular season game of the season.

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