The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team dropped three games at the Air Force Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colo. last weekend. The Hens faced three formidable opponents—Mercyhurst University, California Baptist University, and No. 20 Air Force Academy—and while they lost big to Mercyhurst and Cal Baptist, they played the nationally ranked Air Force squad to a one-point game.
On Friday P-P faced off against the Mercyhurst Lakers, who came into the game with a 6-1 record. Mercyhurst broke open a close game when it scored five consecutive goals coming out of a 3-3 tie. Mercyhurst senior Garret Schoeman scored five goals, including three in the second period, to put the game beyond reach. Brett Luehmann also netted a hat trick for Mercyhurst. P-P tried to mount a late comeback on goals from James Baker PO ’17, Ryan Higgins PO ’14, and Stephen Vint PZ ’16, but could only cut the lead to four. Mercyhurst added a late goal to cap the scoring and secure a 13-8 victory. The Lakers later lost to both Cal Baptist and Air Force, dropping their record to 7-3.
The Hens next faced the Cal Baptist Lancers, whom the Sagehens beat 11-9 last week at the Lancer Invitational. This game proved to be a different story. Cal Baptist was up 6-0 at the half, but saw its lead cut to 7-3 in the third period on a goal from Baker. The Lancers, however, answered with 3 straight goals to put the game away. Dylan O’Connell PO ’14 scored a goal for the Hens and Higgins netted two more in the 11-4 loss. Cal Baptist improved its season record to 5-6 after the tournament.
Phillip Clayman PO ’15 was quick to acknowledge the team’s disappointment after the Cal Baptist game.
“We were definitely very disappointed at those first two losses,” he said. “We were upset with the way we played as a team.”
Clayman also spoke about his team’s attempt to find an identity coming off of the loss of some of last year’s leaders.
“When we had time to set up our defense it was good,” Clayman said, “but when we were on counter-defense, we let up some goals, and that was mainly because we lacked communication while getting back.”
Coach Alex Rodriguez was quick to use the Cal Baptist and Mercyhurst games as a learning experience.
“Coach Rodriguez was pretty disappointed with our play the first two games, but he wasn’t overly negative,” Clayman said. “He pointed out what we were doing wrong and told us what we needed to do better and we definitely did that against Air Force.”
The P-P coaching staff’s strategy and words certainly seemed to be on point, as the Hens played a great game against No. 20 Air Force to close the weekend. The Hens had an 8-7 lead late in the game until Air Force scored with 2:06 left in the fourth period. The game remained tied until a P-P exclusion with 13 seconds left gave Air Force a late opportunity. The Falcons took advantage, and Kevin Womack scored with just nine seconds on the clock to give Air Force the win. Vint, who has 12 goals this year, scored a hat trick in the game while Neil Forsythe PO ’16 had two goals to bring his season total up to six. P-P’s record fell to 2-9 on the year with the loss.
Clayman praised his team’s effort against Air Force, saying, “If we play like that, then we have a very good chance to come away with some wins.”
The Sagehens will return to the pool this coming weekend at the Gary Troyer Memorial Tournament, which will be co-hosted by P-P, La Verne, and Claremont-McKenna-Scripps. The P-P games, three of which are against top-20 teams in the NCAA Water Polo rankings, will be played at Haldeman Pool Friday and Saturday. The Hens will take on No. 8 Loyola-Marymount at 2 p.m. and No. 20 Johns Hopkins at 7:20 p.m. Friday. They will take on Fresno Pacific at 2:20 p.m. and No. 7 Long Beach State University at 6:20 p.m. Saturday.
Clayman spoke optimistically about the upcoming home games and the next four games the Hens will play.
“We are playing some really good teams this weekend, and we need to be sharp and communicate to have a chance,” he said.