Success is not determined by how you start, but how you finish. The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team will need to embrace this point in order to pursue their third straight SCIAC title. After two tough SCIAC losses, the team is attempting to re-group and get in form for the playoffs.
Until Wednesday night, the team had not played up to form since their victory over CMS two weeks ago. Since that time, the Sagehens have gone 3-4.
On Saturday, Oct. 31, they lost to NCAA Division III top-ranked Whittier (6-0 SCIAC) 10-9, and defeated Mt. San Antonio College 9-8. Next, on Wednesday, Nov. 4th, the team defeated LaVerne (0-6 SCIAC) 13-4 before falling to nationally ranked number-ten Concordia 11-8. Theat stretch of games brings the team’s record to 13-14 overall, with a 4-2 record in league.
“Tough week last week. We need to improve our defensive effort to try to regain our SCIAC championship,” said coach Alex Rodriguez.
Against Whittier, the Sagehens had an opportunity to pull into a tie atop the conference with Redlands and Whittier; however, the 10-9 loss dropped them in the standings. The loss was made all the more frustrating by the fact the Sagehens had a lapse in the middle of the game that allowed Whittier to gain a 10-5 advantage. When the team regained focus, a 4-0 run was only good enough for a one-goal loss.
“I feel terrible because they are less than reputable gentlemen,” mentioned Ben Hadley PO ’11.
The second half of the double-dip was against Mt. San Antonio College. Again, Pomona-Pitzer played well below their capabilities and had to scramble in the fourth quarter to eke out a 9-8 victory.
After this slate of struggles, the team made it their goal to try to have more fun and enjoy playing college polo. Like so many things we do at Pomona, (academics, volunteering, running clubs, organizing events) we forget the reasons we got into sports in the first place. Playing starts to feel more like a job than an escape, and performance suffers.
On Wednesday, the team’s revamped attitude was on display and the results were much more assuring. Senior leader Robbie Hayes PO ‘10 led a 13-4 romp over bottom feeder LaVerne. The team displayed a new attitude and looked like they were playing to have fun.As easy as LaVerne was expected to be, Concordia figured to be equally as difficult. Ranked tenth in the latest national polls, the Eagles of Concordia figured to breeze through to an easy victory—and after scoring on their first four possessions, it looked like this would be the case.
But not so fast, my friend. Freshman Jason Cox PI ’13 got Pomona-Pitzer on the board, and Jaron Moler PO ’12 hit a nice shot from the outside with 2:56 left. Three-year standout Ryan Balikian PO ‘11 then added his 50th goal of the season to make it 3-4.
In the second, Cox and Hadley PO ’11 answered Eagle goals to keep the deficit at one until Concordia went on a 2-0 run to end the half at 5-8.
After Concordia scored to open the half, Moler once again scored from the outside with 3:23 left in the third to give the Sagehens new life. Cox continued his stellar performance with another goal at 0:41 to pull the Sagehens within two at 7-9. Next, a goal by Mark Hudnall PO ’13 brought Pomona-Pitzer to 8-9 with 4:52 in the contest.
During this comeback, the defense stepped up big to hold Concordia scoreless for almost 14 minutes and give the offense a chance to get back in the game. Finally, however, the Concordia persistence proved to be too much, and they scored twice in the final two minutes to put the game out of reach at 11-8.
Even with the loss, coach Rodriguez was pleased with his team’s performance, especially their resiliency.
“We had a good energy level to be in the game after the first two times we played them earlier this season. Better overall team performance tonight.”
Wednesday’s two games hopefully signify that the men’s water polo team is recovering from their struggles. We will find out this Saturday as the team hosts an important match-up against Cal Lutheran (with whom they are currently tied for third) in the regular season finale at 11:00 a.m.
“Third place is huge,” remarked coach Rodriguez. “It’s the difference between three tough playoff games or just two.”
When asked how he would rank where his team on a scale of one to ten, Rodriguez replied, “After last Saturday probably a four, but after today I’ll say seven or eight.” The team may sit at a seven or eight now, but these grades are not final. The Cal Lutheran game will be useful to determine how the team is prepared for the SCIAC tournament.