Men’s Water Polo Closes Out Season as National #5

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team concluded the 2012 season with a set of exceptional performances at the WWPA tournament at Whittier College from Nov. 16-18. The Hens went into the tournament as the seventh seed, but a one-goal overtime victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and another one-goal win over number-19 Santa Clara University gave the Hens a fifth-place finish overall in the tournament. The Hens placed highest among their Division III competitors in the tournament, closing off the season with a 16-16 record overall and a 10-1 SCIAC Conference record, walking away with a co-SCIAC Championship.

The crowning moment of the tournament for the Hens was the goal by Cody Moore PO ’13 from 10 meters out with less than 30 seconds left in the game to secure the Sagehen victory over a ranked Division I opponent, the Santa Clara Broncos, in the final game of the 2012 season. Ryan Higgins PO ’14 set the stage for the Hens with a goal in the first Sagehen possession, followed by a redirect shot from Cody Moore PO ’13 right in front of the goal on a six-on-five opportunity. The Hens jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the first, but Santa Clara chipped in another goal to narrow the Sagehen lead to one.

A series of offensive fouls and steals on both sides, missed shots from both teams and goalie blocks from both Sagehen goalie Austin Strong PO ’15 and the Santa Clara goalie resulted in a stalemate for most of the second quarter. With three minutes left in the second quarter, Mark Hudnall PO ’13 broke the gridlock with a surprise lob shot followed by another quick perimeter shot in the next Sagehen possession to extend the Sagehen lead to 6-3. Santa Clara scored once before Hudnall scored again on a perimeter shot with his deadly “hezzy” fake to completely offset the goalie.

The first half of the third quarter was another defensive battle, with both teams holding each other scoreless. Clayton Hardman PO ’15 and Stephen Vint PZ ’15 scored to extend the Sagehen lead to 9-5. In the closing minutes of the third quarter, the Broncos began their comeback to narrow the lead to 9-7. With five seconds left in the third quarter, Higgins snuck in a clutch, near-side goal to give the Hens a 10-7 advantage and break the Bronco momentum. Throughout the fourth quarter, the Broncos slowly chipped away at the Sagehen lead through a few six-on-five opportunities until Moore’s long-range shot took the Broncos by surprise.

The next day, the Sagehens rebounded from their loss in the SCIAC Championship game to take an overtime victory from their co-SCIAC Champions, CMS. Moore carried the Sagehens offensively through the first half, scoring three through long-range skip shots and close-range redirects on six-on-five, man-up opportunities.

The two evenly matched teams battled back and forth through the first two quarters, with the Sagehens claiming the first scoring run that started with a one-on-nobody breakaway goal from Jason Cox PO ’13 in the closing seconds of the second quarter. Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14 and Hardman scored on back-to-back, six-on-five opportunities to give the Hens a 7-5 lead in the third. The Sagehens went into the fourth quarter up 8-6, but the Stags scored twice to send the game into overtime. With less than 10 seconds left in the first overtime period, Higgins scored on a counterattack skip shot off a long pass from goalie Tyler Hill PO ’14. The Sagehens shut down the Stags through the second overtime period to secure the win.

The Sagehens started the tournament with a narrow 11-13 loss to the Division I number-10 Loyola Marymount University Lions, who were the second seed in the WWPA tournament. LMU scored the first goal, but the Sagehens quickly took a 2-1 lead with a near-side shot from Hudnall and a steal to a two-on-nobody counterattack goal from Cox. LMU stretched out their lead to 7-2 to close out the first quarter.

The Sagehens bounced back in the second quarter, started off by two long-range perimeter goals from Cox and a set of point-blank range blocks from Hill. The Lions regained a five-game lead in the third, but the Hens rebounded with back-to-back goals from Clayman and a penalty shot from Higgins. The third quarter ended with a 7-11 deficit, but due to a referee call challenged by Coach Alex Rodriguez, the Sagehens and Lions replayed the last minute and a half of the third quarter. During this period, Vint scored for the Sagehens, but the Lions scored again to maintain their four-goal lead going into the fourth quarter. The Sagehens found their rhythm in the fourth, scoring three to the Lions’ one, but the game clock expired before the Sagehens could make a complete comeback.

The men’s water polo season just finished, but the women’s water polo games will begin at the end of January to start the second semester.

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