The ball bounced off the outstretched hands of Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo keeper and captain Kyle Pokorny PO ’12, skittering across the water just like any other save. But in a split second, what was normally a routine play for the Sagehens took an abrupt turn. Having noticed the loose ball, Stag Brian Chong CM ’12 dove toward the net, scooping up the ball and sending it past an unsuspecting Pokorny to score. The goal gave the CMS Stags a 6-3 lead, capping off a frustrating second quarter for the Sagehens in which they were shut out 4-0.
Unexpected surprises and frustration characterized a heated match between the two cross-campus rivals under the lights at Claremont McKenna’s Matt Axelrod Pool this Wednesday. The Stags walked away into the chilly night with a 10-8 victory, but for both teams, it was a battle until the end. With the loss, the Sagehens fell to 5-14 for the season.
The Sagehens warmed up first to the sub-60 degree weather, gaining a tight 3-2 lead in the first quarter off a 6-on-5 goal by Dylan O’Connell PO ’14. But as the time began to tick away in the second quarter, the Sagehens lost steam, sacrificing multiple possessions on turnovers. Recovering one of those P-P turnovers, the Stags managed to puncture what appeared to be a tight Sagehen defense, threading a ball in between two defenders at the two-meter mark and tying the game 3-3. Less than a minute later, the Stags took a shot that appeared to be an easy save for Pokorny. But in another stroke of sheer luck, the ball escaped his grasp, flying into the net to put the Stags up 4-3. And they wouldn’t look back.
In the third quarter, the fired-up Sagehens mustered a stronger effort, creating more Stag turnovers and taking better shots on offense.
“We felt we weren’t playing to our potential,” Alex Rodriguez, P-P head coach, said. “The guys were upset about the 4-0 CMS second quarter and came out stronger in the third because of that.”
The Hens took control through the first minutes of the third quarter, sending two shots through the Stags’ defensive web to bring themselves within one point of their opponents. But the Stags soon fired back, putting a goal past Pokorny to go up 7-5 with 3:45 left in the quarter. With 2:25 remaining, Stephen Vint PZ ’15 scored one of his two goals of the quarter, a tricky outside shot that seemed to jump right past the arms of the Stag defenders. The Stags, however, would respond to that goal a minute later, taking an 8-6 lead into the end of the quarter.
The heavily physical game was not without controversy as well, including a malfunctioning scoreboard clock that erased a Pomona-Pitzer goal with 33 seconds left in the third. The goal would have put the Sagehens back within one point, but the referees were forced to discard the goal after realizing that the clock had remained stopped through the entire play.
“It happens, and in that situation that was the right call by the ref,” Rodriguez said.
The Sagehens were also hampered by a double ejection late in the fourth quarter. Overall leading scorer Jason Cox PZ ’13 was dealt his third kick-out of the game as a result of roughness with a Stag substitute player, removing him from the rest of play.
In the fourth quarter, the Sagehens racked up two more goals, but the Stags rode two lob shots that snuck past Pokorny, earning them the victory.
“It was more about us, about what we couldn’t do,” Rodriguez said. “We can be a better team. We’re deeper and older than last year.”
After decisively putting away Occidental 15-8 in their SCIAC opener, the Sagehens move to 1-1 in league play. They face off against Whittier and UCLA at the Haldeman Pool tomorrow at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. respectively.