Sagehens Run Into Top-Tier Competition, Lose Two

After beginning SCIAC play with two straight wins, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team dropped two in a row to nationally ranked opponents. After losing a close 15-12 match to Air Force Academy last Wednesday, Oct. 23, the Sagehens took on the 10th ranked team in the nation, the Concordia University Eagles. P-P put up a fight against Concordia but could not complete the upset as the Eagles prevailed 14-10.

Last week, P-P began league play with an undefeated conference record, beating both Occidental College and California Lutheran University, and looked to continue on the same path against Concordia.

“Coming into league play and getting some wins is always a good transition from the Division I portion of our season. I think that the change in the style of play has given our team confidence in our abilities, but I don’t think we are taking any of our league competitors lightly,” captain Robert Chew PO ’14 said when asked about this good start to league play.  

After the solid start of league play, P-P took on their final Division I opponent of the regular season, Concordia. At the start of the game, Concordia took a quick lead and went ahead early in the first quarter. The Concordia offense scored eight goals in the first quarter and a half of play. The Sagehens had three goals of their own, but struggled to keep up with the fast-paced Eagle offense. 

When it seemed like Concordia was about to put the game away, P-P went on a tear halfway through the second quarter. Tommy Turner PO ’17 and Timmy Hardman PZ ’17 both contributed to the Sagehen rally, scoring late second-quarter goals to pull the Hens within three points. In the final minute before halftime, Ryan Higgins PO ’14 capped off a 3-0 P-P run with a clutch goal. This pulled the Hens within two: The game went into halftime with Concordia leading 9-7.

The second half began with two more Eagle goals in the third quarter to put them ahead by four. However, James Baker PO ’17 and Phillip Clayman PO ’16 answered, each scoring a goal of his own. This made the score 11-9 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Shortly after Clayman’s goal, however, the Eagles answered with another score and looked again as if they would pull away. The Sagehens did not go down easy though, as Dylan O’Connell PO ’14 scored a goal with half a quarter to play, cutting the Eagle lead to two. As the Sagehens were on the verge of scoring again, Concordia came up with a huge stop and countered with a goal, putting them ahead by a score of 13-10. An insurance goal by the Eagles with two minutes left sealed the game, giving Concordia a 14-10 victory. Fifteen of P-P’s losses have come to top-25-ranked teams in the nation.

After the tough loss to Concordia, Chew thought the game revealed some areas the Sagehens could still improve on as they get into the heart of their season.

“It was a disappointing game in the sense that it was very much within our reach,” Chew said. “We made a lot of small, individual mistakes that ended up costing us the game.  That being said, I think it was also proof of the level of play we can achieve when we play as a team. With such a short season, we are always trying to improve our play both individually and as a team.”

In the hard-fought game, three of the four leading P-P scorers each had two goals. Baker scored his 32nd and 33rd goals to lead the team with Stephen Vint PZ ‘15 right behind him, scoring 32 goals on the year. Higgins raised his own total to 21 goals this season.

After a bye weekend, the Sagehens returned to the pool on Wednesday to take on on their third league opponent, Whittier College. Unfortunately for the Hens, the Poets came out strong and jumped out to an early 9-3 lead. Despite a late push by P-P, Whitter held on for the 12-8 win, giving the Hens their first SCIAC loss of the season. Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14 scored a team-high four goals for the Hens. With the loss, P-P is now 5-19 on the year and 2-1 in SCIAC play.

The Sagehens will continue SCIAC play this Saturday, Nov. 2, when they square off against the Beavers of Caltech at Haldeman Pool. The game starts at 11 a.m. 

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