After winning the conference regular season title last year, Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) men’s water polo were disappointed by an abrupt end to the season with a semi-finals loss to Redlands. After losing again to Redlands earlier this season, the Sagehens now sit in fourth place in the conference, but are still looking to make a splash in the Division III rankings after taking down Cal Lutheran 15-9 for their third conference win of the season on Oct. 7.
The Sagehens came in with energy in the first quarter with a flurry of goals, three of which came from the hands of underclassmen. Kyle Green PZ ’24 pulled the upperclassmen’s weight for the Sagehens’ roster of 18 freshmen and sophomores out of 25, scoring and increasing P-P’s lead to 4-0 in the first five minutes of the game.
Three freshmen, Chase Barman PO ’27, Zach Whitfield PO ’27 and Miles Chiang PO ’27, form half the starting lineup for the Sagehens. Team captain Liam Byrne PO ’25 expressed admiration for their core of first years.
“This was definitely our most complete performance from end to end and it’s a really good step in the right direction,” Byrne said. ”The younger players have definitely done a good job of stepping into a tough position of starting right off the bat. Zach Whitfield ended up making a really smart defensive steal on a two on one and that helped carry momentum into the half.”
The Kingsmen tried to cut into P-P’s lead before the quarter ended, but they couldn’t compete with the Saghens’ momentum and the board read 6-2 going into the second quarter.
The Sagehens continued to lock down on defense, blocking all of the Kingsmen’s shots in the second quarter and putting up three more of their own goals. P-P went into the half leading 9-2.
In the third quarter, the Hens built off of the energy of the first half, putting up five more goals and only conceding twice. However, going into the final quarter with a 14-4 lead, the Kingsmen were able to bring the score gap into single digits. They scored five goals in the fourth quarter, compared to the Sagehen’s single one, but P-P’s dominance throughout the game allowed them to walk away without punishment. The game ended with a decisive 15-9 victory for the Sagehens, earning them their third win in the SCIAC conference.
Jacob Whiting PZ ’26 players felt as if they were able to fully execute their game plans.
“I feel like we’ve been very consistent,” Whiting said. “The Cal Lutheran and the most recent Whittier game are good examples of how we can play together as a team.”
Head coach Alex Rodriguez noted the roster’s heavy underclassmen presence and said that the team’s youth gives them a unique development opportunity.
“We’re trying to build a relatively young team … so there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs,” Rodriguez said. “There’s still a lot of guys that have room to grow individually.”
While the Sagehens recognize themselves as a young team that lacks the advantage of having veteran presence, they said they believe a SCIAC and DIII championship are still in the cards. From winning a national DIII championship his freshmen year to not making it to the national stage at all the next year, Liam Byrne PO ’25 said he has seen what it takes to win and thinks that the team can still get it done.
“The goal every year is to win a national championship and that’s something that has stayed regardless of the disappointment last year,” Byrne said. “I don’t think I would consider this just a building year because we are young. We have seniors where this is their last opportunity and we don’t want them to have to end their water polo career on a low note.”
However, Rodriguez said that the road to a national championship is never an easy one. But proving that the team can win tough games against opponents like Cal Lutheran proves that the team can go far.
“That’s how I build a team,” Rodriguez said. “By playing tough games. I always say that getting better is painful.”
The Sagehens have gained another win on the road over CalTech since their performance against the Kingsmen, pushing their SCIAC record to 4-1. They will be traveling over the weekend to play a few east coast opponents and will return to California in hopes to continue their work towards earning a spot in the DIII national tournament, playing at Chapman on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:00 p.m.