Sagehens Water Polo Struggles at Southern California Tournament

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team played four games over the weekend at the Southern California Tournament held at University of California, Irvine’s Anteater Aquatics Complex. The Irvine invitational is the largest of the year for the Sagehens and one of the biggest in all of collegiate water polo, attracting top teams from across the nation. The Hens participated as the only Division III team and faced off against four nationally ranked teams. 

The team lost 23-2 to No. 1 University of California, Los Angeles and 13-4 to No. 8 Pepperdine University on Saturday, Oct. 12. The next day was not any easier for the Sagehens as they fell to No. 13 University of California, San Diego and No. 15 Santa Clara University by scores of 15-4 and 11-7, respectively. With the conclusion of the SoCal Tournament, P-P has an overall record of 3-16 with 13 losses against teams ranked in the top 25 nationally, including two to No. 1 UCLA.

With the daunting match-ups at the SoCal Tournament, P-P continued its hellacious non-conference schedule, which has included numerous nationally ranked Division I teams. The Hens began the tournament on Saturday by playing UCLA, the top ranked team in the nation. After a slow start by the Sagehens and a great start by the Bruins, the Hens could not recover and the Bruins cruised to an easy victory. The game ended in a score of 23-2 as the undefeated (16-0) UCLA team overmatched the Sagehens, with four Bruins scoring hat tricks and eleven different Bruins scoring goals. James Baker PO ’17 scored each of the Sagehens’ goals, raising his total to 26 for the year to lead all Sagehen scorers.

In the second game of the day, P-P faced off against another top-10 opponent in the No. 8 Pepperdine Waves. In another tough game, the Hens fell by a score of 13-4. Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14 and Travis Larsen PO ’15 each scored a goal, while Stephen Vint PZ ’15 put two goals in the back of the net.

“We focused on our defensive looks so that we could control the tempo of games against deeper Division I teams. I think that the focus paid off in that we were able to prevent our first two games against UCLA and Pepperdine from running away from us in the first half,” said P-P captain Robert Chew PO ’14.

On the second day of the tournament, the Sagehens took on No. 13 UC San Diego to start the day. Austin Strong PZ ’15 and Tyler Hill PO ’14 both played a half in goal and racked up four saves apiece. Gaut and Vint each scored a goal, and Phillip Clayman PO ’16 and Chew added goals of their own. The Sagehens, however, were once again outplayed by their nationally ranked foes, as the Tritons took an initial lead of 8-0 and eventually took the match 15-4.

P-P’s final game of the tournament was against No. 15 Santa Clara. The Sagehens came closest to a win in this game, finishing the first quarter with a tied score of 3-3. However, a rally by the Broncos brought Santa Clara ahead 10-5 at the end of three quarters.  The Sagehens scored two late goals in the fourth, but it was not enough to overcome the five goal deficit and the Hens ended up losing by a final tally of 11-7. Ryan Higgins PO ’14 and Gaut each scored a hat trick for P-P, with Vint adding another goal.

After the tournament, Chew stressed the importance of using this difficult schedule, and the SoCal Tournament in particular, as a way to improve as the team moves into the real meat of their season. 

“We are one of the only Division III teams that has the opportunity to compete with top-10 teams, and I think that the skills we learn during our early season give us an important edge in our league play,” Chew said.

This week, the Hens look to start off league play strong and get back into the win column as they take to the pool in their SCIAC opener. “The transition from our Division I schedule to league play always requires us to adapt our game, but I think our team is in a good position to face the SCIAC season,” said Chew. “We have a deep, talented bench this year that is allowing us to play a faster-paced game than we have in past years. I think that with some continued adjustments to our offensive looks we can be very successful in the second part of our season.”

The Sagehens’ next game will be against SCIAC rival California Lutheran University on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Haldeman Pool.

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