Higgins Carries Sagehens Past Leopards in First Win

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team maintained a comfortable lead throughout their 12-7 win over the University of La Verne Leopards in their SCIAC opener and first home game on Wednesday night. This puts their record at 1-11 for the season and 1-0 in SCIAC conference play.

The Hens certainly were excited to break their 11-game losing streak, especially with a well-earned, well-played SCIAC opening home victory like the one on Wednesday.

The Sagehens started off strong with a goal within the first minute from the game’s leading scorer, Ryan Higgins PO ’14. Higgins scored again later in the first, and the Sagehens rode on his coattails for the majority of the first half. Jason Cox PO ’13, Dylan O’Connell PO ’14, Cox again and Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14 scored for the Hens in the second quarter, their momentum finally broken by a Leopard goal with two minutes left in the half. 

Higgins and Gaut took the spotlight in the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter, with three more goals for Higgins and one for Gaut, interrupted by a single Leopard goal. The Sagehens led 10-2 at the beginning of the fourth quarter before the Leopards threatened a comeback run. They managed to narrow the lead to 12-7 with 22 seconds left in the game, but they could not recover from the unbreakable Sagehen defense in the first half.

Their scoring may have been dominated by Higgins, Gaut and Cox, but on the defensive end, starting goalie Tyler Hill PO ’14 held the Leopards nearly scoreless for the first half with five saves. Austin Strong PO ’15 took over in the second half, clocking in six saves. Head Coach Alex Rodriguez also noted a number of important assists to Gaut and Higgins by Cox.

The Sagehens are beginning to accomplish what Rodriguez hoped they would through the Division I-heavy schedule in September. The idea of facing Division I teams is to experience firsthand how top-level water polo is played, learn everything they can from the experience and use what they learned on their SCIAC opponents. They seem to have transitioned smoothly back to the world of Division III, bringing a part of Division I with them.

“The team was excited to play well and get a win,” Rodriguez said. “Play well” may be a slight understatement, as the Sagehens dominated the match offensively and defensively throughout three quarters of play without letting up or becoming mentally complacent.

The Sagehens and Leopards have a history of difficult games. Coupled with the fact that the Leopards defeated a Division I-ranked team a few weeks ago, the Sagehens can probably expect a different match should they face La Verne again during playoffs or in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) tournament.  

The Sagehens will not see another SCIAC opponent until next Wednesday, when they will travel to Thousand Oaks to face California Lutheran University. 

Rodriguez and the Sagehens hope to extend their winning streak in their four home games this weekend in the Gary Troyer Tournament, noting the match against Cal Baptist today at 2 p.m., the Harvard game tonight at 7 p.m., and the John Hopkins match tomorrow at 12:40 p.m.

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