The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team started SCIAC play on a high note this past week, winning its first two conference games in exciting fashion.
The Sagehens took on the Kingsmen of California Lutheran University last Wednesday, Oct. 16. In a back-and-forth battle, P-P managed to grab the victory winning 10-7. On Saturday, Oct. 19, the team played two games at Pomona’s Haldeman Pool, splitting the matches. In the Hens’ first game of the day, they defeated Occidental College in a 16-7 shellacking. Next, P-P took on another team ranked in the top-25 nationally, Air Force Academy. The Sagehens put up a fight against 19th-ranked Air Force, but lost a close game 15-12. On Wednesday, the team had another strong performance, but ultimately fell short to No.10 Concordia 14-10. After going 2-2 on the week, with both wins in league games, the Hens now have an overall record of 5-18, with 15 of the losses coming to nationally-ranked Division I teams.
For their first league game of the year, P-P faced off against Cal Lu at Haldeman Pool. In a competitive game, the Sagehens and Kingsmen traded goals back and forth. Every time a Sagehen found the back of the net, an opposing Cal Lu player would answer. Until the end of the match, P-P’s largest lead at any given point was only one goal. Entering the fourth quarter, the game was tied at a 7-7 stalemate. With about four minutes left in the game, Ryan Higgins PO ’17 scored a clutch goal to give the Sagehens the lead. Stephen Vint PZ ’15 then put the game away by scoring two more late goals, securing the 10-7 victory for P-P. Vint led the way with four goals, helping his team seal their first league victory of the year.
Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14, a senior captain, led a great offensive performance for the Sagehens, but credited the win to the team’s defensive effort, saying that “defensively we’ve been able to speed up our helps and our communication has improved to make our dropping-scheme much more efficient.”
P-P then hit the pool for two games on Saturday, starting with a conference game against Occidental. After the breakout win against Cal Lu, the Hens looked to take their second league win against a struggling Tigers squad. Oxy, with a 1-16 record on the year, could not match the surging offense of the Sagehens. After a close 4-4 start, P-P broke away with a five-goal run at the beginning of the second quarter. James Baker PO ’17 started the streak with an early second-quarter goal, followed almost immediately by another goal from Phillip Clayman PO ’16. Before Oxy could stop the run, three more Sagehens found the back of the net. Late second-quarter goals by Gaut, Vint, and Baker put the Sagehens on top by a dominant scoreline of 12-5 going into halftime.
Oxy could not match the speed of the Sagehens’ attack-all game and did not recover from the halftime deficit. The Hens scored four more goals in the second half, giving up only two, ending the game at 16-7 P-P. Along with the explosive offensive performance, the Hens played stellar defense as well, with goalies Austin Strong PZ ’16 and Caleb Prater-Fahey PO ’17 racking up 11 total saves. Gaut led the way for the P-P offense with a four-goal game. Baker scored a hat trick, and Nic Lanker PO ’17, Timmy Hardman PZ ’17, Clayman, and Vint had two goals apiece. Clayton Hardman PO ’15 also scored a goal for the Hens.
In their second game on Saturday, the Hens took on No. 19 Air Force for the second time this season. After a high-scoring first half, the Sagehens found themselves behind by a score of 11-6. P-P pulled to within two at the beginning of the second half after three straight goals by Gaut, Baker, and Clayman. Air Force, however, answered with a three-goal run of their own, making the score 14-9. Although the Sagehens scored two straight goals to cut the margin to 14-11, they could not get any closer. The game ended with a 15-12 score in favor of Air Force. Clayton Hardman, Clayman, and Vint each finished with two goals.
Now past the very difficult beginning of their season schedule, the Sagehens are looking to keep their league winning streak alive. When asked about his team’s improvements up to this point in the season, Gaut added, “We’ve also been working on the physical mechanics of shooting and faking in order to increase our finishing percentages, which we’ve made strides in but still have a long way to go.”
The Sagehens have this weekend off, but are back in the pool next Wednesday, Oct. 30 for another SCIAC match-up. The Sagehens will play at Whittier College at 7 p.m.