Men’s Water Polo Beats Cal Baptist, Harvard, Fordham, Cal Lu

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team added another four victories to their record in the last week, three in the Gary Troyer Tournament last weekend and another against fellow SCIAC opponent California Lutheran University on Wednesday. Their ranking dropped to third in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division III poll due to their 9-10 loss to number-two Johns Hopkins University last weekend, despite pulling off wins over Division I 19th-ranked California Baptist University, Harvard University, Fordham University and Cal Lutheran. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps moved into the number-one spot. 

Haldeman Pool was bustling the weekend of the Troyer Tournament with the comings and goings of 23 men’s varsity water polo teams from all over the country. The whistles and cheers, especially loud during Friday night’s Sagehen-Crimson matchup, could be heard throughout the campus.

The highlights of the weekend were the two matches on Friday—the first against Cal Baptist. The game was competitive throughout and really boiled down to the very end of the fourth quarter. Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Player of the Week Ryan Higgins PO ’14 broke a 7-7 tie with five minutes left in the fourth to give the Sagehens the lead and put pressure on Cal Baptist. The Sagehen defense held out enough for Tyler Hill PO ’14 to make his 12th block of the game and return the ball to the Sagehens, giving Jason Cox PO ’13 the space to score from the perimeter under two minutes to put the Sagehens up 9-7. In the next possession, Cal Baptist scored a perfectly placed lob shot with a minute left in the fourth, but the Sagehens were able to bounce back immediately. A man-up, point-blank, catch-and-shoot goal from Cody Moore PO ’13 secured the Sagehen win.

The second match on Friday, one of the most well-attended games of the season, was against Harvard. The game remained close for two quarters, with the Sagehens leading at halftime. To the delight of a boisterous home crowd, the Sagehens took the momentum for a 4-0 run in the third quarter to extend their lead to five, led by two goals from Stephen Vint PZ ’14. The Crimson managed to get within two points of the Sagehens in the fourth quarter, but back-to-back Sagehen goals prevented Harvard from getting any closer. Austin Strong PO ’15 had eight saves in the cage on the defensive end for the Sagehens.

After all the intensity and excitement of Friday, the Sagehens could not keep their energy up for the first game on Saturday morning against Division III second-ranked Johns Hopkins.

“I think we came out flat,” Head Coach Alex Rodriguez said. “We missed on several 6-5 opportunities in the fourth.”

6-5 opportunities, or man-up opportunities, are crucial to a game’s momentum. When teams are relatively evenly matched, it is taking advantage of these opportunities that makes a difference in the flow of the game, simply because more shots are scored when there are fewer defenders. 

Unfortunately, the loss against Johns Hopkins dropped the Sagehens to a number-three rank. CMS defeated Johns Hopkins in the tournament, putting them in the top spot in Division III.

After the Troyer Tournament, the Sagehens prepared to face their next SCIAC opponents, the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen, at the Kingsmen’s pool in Thousand Oaks Wednesday afternoon.  

The Sagehens started off well defensively, allowing only two goals in the first half—backed by eight saves from Hill—while scoring five of their own. The offense was led by four goals from Higgins, three from Cox and one each from Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14, Vint, Moore, Mark Hundall PO ’13 and Trevor Roszkos PZ ’16.

Half of the offensive run happened in the third quarter, when the Sagehens scored six to the Kingsmen’s four to give the Hens a seemingly decisive 11-6 lead. 

The Sagehens then had to hold off a four-goal Kingsmen run to narrow the lead to 11-10, caused by some “bad offensive turnovers” and other missed 6-5 opportunities, according to Rodriguez. An insurance goal and a defensive shutdown of the Kingsmen secured the second SCIAC win for the Sagehens.

The Sagehens travel to Occidental College tomorrow, where they will face their third SCIAC opponent. As is well-known among SCIAC aquatics teams, Occidental is the only SCIAC team with a shallow-end pool.

“We need to prepare for their pool,” Rodriguez said. In the past, the Sagehens have trained in the shallow-end Pendleton Pool instead of Haldeman before the Occidental game to get the players used to the difference. The shallow end affects gameplay, mainly in the goal area—while field players cannot stand on or bounce off the bottom of the pool, the goalie can.

After Occidental, the Sagehens have to face Caltech, University of Redlands, Whittier College and CMS before they close out their SCIAC season. They are so far undefeated in SCIAC and have improved their record to 5-12, but they still have difficult games ahead.

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