Men’s water polo aims to make a splash after DIII National Championship win

A Pomona-Pitzer water polo player prepare to throw the ball as an opponent approaches him.
Captain Alex Peterson PO ’24 prepares to throw the ball as an opponent approaches. (Jonathan Ke • The Student Life)

No SCIAC water polo team has ever won two national championships in recorded history. This season, however, Pomona-Pitzer’s men’s team aims to do just that. 

The Sagehens are off to a promising 3-1 start in SCIAC play following their Division III National Championship title last year, with wins against Cal Lutheran and La Verne. These victories come just after a rigorous preseason, which included games against high-level Division I teams such as USC and Pepperdine. 

Co-captain Alex Peterson PO ’24 appreciates the tough competition against DI teams, as it has given P-P an advantage over other SCIAC teams who had a less competitive preseason. However, it also meant the athletes had to dedicate their fall semester to frequent games and practices.  

“I think our primary team strength is how committed to the sport we are,” Peterson said. “We sacrifice a lot of time in hopes of having a successful and rewarding season.”

Left side attacker and center Jack Ryan PZ ’25 felt confident about the team’s preseason performance against these “powerhouse teams.” This season, he is looking to build a strong culture within the team.

“This was an amazing chance to welcome our large freshman class,” Ryan said. “It feels like I have 20 brothers that I get to spend my time with.” 

While Ryan said the team feels like a “second family,” he added that adjusting to the collegiate level has been a challenge. Although he could have chosen to play with people his age on the club team, the varsity team has challenged him to play with a more experienced group.

“When I first arrived as a first-year, I was playing with fully developed men,” Ryan said. “It just seems that everyone’s faster, bigger, stronger and smarter. It was very intimidating at first, but I was able to do well by playing hard and persevering.”

A significant component of the team’s success is bridging the communication gap between head coach Alex Rodriguez and the players. This is one of Peterson’s primary roles alongside his co-captain Sam Sasaki PO ’23. The two communicate scheduling changes with the team, voice concerns to the coaching staff, run warmups and handle equipment setup and cleanup.

Peterson and the other seniors also manage relationships within the team, which can be especially difficult given the team’s passionate mentality. 

“We are a group of hyper-competitive individuals, and this can lead to some high emotion moments in practices and games,” Peterson said. “This is something we are working on limiting to maintain a cohesive and positive team environment.” 

While the ultimate goal is to win another National Championship, Peterson said being part of the team is just as fulfilling.

“Of course, competing and winning is rewarding for me, but being able to build unique relationships with quality individuals is my favorite part of being on the team,” Peterson said. “We all chose to compete for this team out of the love we share for the sport and I think that makes this program special.”

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