The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team topped the Whittier College Poets on Wednesday afternoon 9-7, solidifying their spot as the only undefeated team in SCIAC. The win puts them 5-0 in SCIAC, increases their winning streak to six and bumps up their ranking in Division III to number two.
Immediately following Fall Break, the Sagehens faced their toughest SCIAC opponent yet. The Whittier team, like the Sagehens, was undefeated before Wednesday’s game.
The first goal of the game went to Whittier, but that was the only lead the Poets had for the rest of the game. The first half was a close battle, with Clayton Hardman PO ’15 scoring for P-P in the first quarter. The Sagehens looked to open a lead in the second quarter with consecutive goals by Mark Hudnall PO ’13 and Jason Cox PO ’13, but Whittier scored twice in a row to halt the Sagehen momentum.
The turning point of the game came with the onset of the third quarter. Philip Clayman PO ’16 scored within the first minute of the quarter, which started a 6-0 Sagehen scoring run that extended through most of the fourth quarter.
“We really started being more aggressive on counterattack,” Coach Alex Rodriguez said. “Once we got on a roll, we started to play better.”
The first successful execution of this counterattack came from Stephen Vint PZ ’15, whose goal on a one-on-nobody breakaway following Clayman’s goal helped the Sagehens regain momentum. In the next Sagehen possession, Hudnall scored on a man-up play.
Cox and Hudnall kept the run going to further widen the gap to a comfortable 8-3 Sagehen lead. Dylan O’Connell PO ’14 scored a dramatic final goal for the Sagehens to extend the lead to 9-3, dropping a well placed lob as the shot clock expired with three minutes left in the game.
Once the Sagehens got on a roll, they not only began to play better offensively, but they also played practically flawless defense for over a quarter and a half. The Sagehen defense completely shut down the Poets, holding them scoreless for nearly 14 minutes of play. In the cage, goalie Tyler Hill PO ’14 clocked eight saves plus a major steal in the final seconds of the game to secure the 9-7 win.
The Poets threatened a comeback in the final two and a half minutes of play, with one Poet scoring three goals in three consecutive Whittier possessions. Whittier could not bounce back from a 9-3 deficit late in the fourth quarter, however, and, despite their 4-0 run, they failed to catch up with the Sagehens.
The Sagehens now claim full possession of first place in SCIAC as they look forward to games against Caltech and University of California, San Diego tomorrow. UCSD is their first non-Division III opponent since Harvard University and Santa Clara University in the Gary Troyer Tournament. UCSD will bring the Sagehens back to the first 11 games of the season, which were all against ranked Division I teams. In the newest Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) poll, UCSD is ranked tenth in Division I, with the Sagehens receiving a vote along with Johns Hopkins University in the Division I rankings. Johns Hopkins and P-P are ranked number one and number two in Division III, respectively.
The Sagehens’ next opponent is new SCIAC addition Chapman University, which is currently tied for second place with Whittier in SCIAC. Chapman’s only SCIAC loss of the season was at the hands of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at the beginning of the regular season.
CMS is in third place with a 4-1 SCIAC record, with their only loss to California Lutheran Univsersity. Cal Lutheran has a 3-3 record with a few close losses to the Sagehens, Chapman and Whittier but still claimed a big win over CMS. University of Redlands has a 1-4 record with almost all of their losses within three goals. They are tied with the University of La Verne, which has had a few close games against Whittier and Chapman.
Overall, the SCIAC pool is evenly matched and will make for an exciting and unpredictable tournament starting Nov. 9, hosted by Whittier. Each SCIAC team has two or three more regular season conference matches before the final tournament.
The Sagehens’ regular season matches end next Saturday, and their last two games before the SCIAC tournament are both at home in Haldeman Pool.
They will face the Air Force Academy next Friday afternoon. Saturday night is the long-awaited match against CMS, which will no doubt be a thrilling close to the 2012 season.