Top-Ranked Competition Proves Too Much for the Hens

The Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team started off the
season in usual fashion: playing some of the toughest teams in the nation. Thus far, the Sagehens have faced six opponents, including four ranked in the nation’s top 15. While the team hasn’t been able to pick up a win, the tough
competition has helped the Hens work toward improvements for the conference
matches to come later in the season. 

The Sagehens began the Inland Empire Tournament at the University of La Verne on Sept. 13 by taking on the Air Force Academy Falcons. Despite clinging on in the first period and keeping the game
tied at four goals, the Sagehens lost the lead in the second quarter. After a hard-fought second half, P-P ended up falling to Air Force 10-17.

P-P went on to play SCIAC opponent La
Verne in a non-conference game. The Hens broke into the second half trailing the
Leopards, but with the help of two late goals scored by James Baker PO ’17, the Hens came just one goal short of victory. La Verne was able to hold the ball in the final seconds to get the win.

“We were disappointed with the loss against La Verne,
especially because we knew we could win,” Tommy Turner PO ’17 said.
“We’re working as hard as we can now to beat them later on in the season
when it matters.”

While the team is still feeling the loss of five seniors from last
year, including second leading goal scorer Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14, the Hens are
confident in their three new first-years. Daniel Diemer PZ ’18, from St. Louis,
Mo., will be assisting Ethan Prater-Fahey PO ’17 in goal this season. Bennett Royce PZ ’18, a
native of San Diego, is noted for his strong shooting arm and offense. Mark Hallman PO ’18 of Oak Park, Ill., already has proved to be an
important contributor to the squad, tallying a goal in the game against La
Verne.

With fewer returning players than in previous years, the 2014 team will quickly face the challenge of getting comfortable playing well with each other.

“The freshman class, although small, brings new talents
to the table,” Devon Kennedy PZ ’16 said. “They provide speed,
remarkable discipline, and overall talent.”

In recent years, the Hens have consistently had several players with three or four years of starting or first-off-the-bench experience, but of the 2014 players only Stevie Vint PZ ’15 has started for four years. Though head coach Alex Rodriguez is aware of how many starters
graduated last year, he is confident in the young team.

“This year is different than the
past because we don’t have a ton of experience,” Rodriguez said. “I think this
group has the most potential to grow and get better than I have had in the
past.”  

On Sept. 14, the Hens faced off against No. 1 Stanford University and No. 15 Concordia University. Facing the top-ranked teams in the nation has now become a
custom for the Hens, who faced off against then-No. 1 University of Southern California last year at Haldeman
Pool. The team dropped both contests 21-5 and 13-8, respectively, but gained
valuable experience from playing against such talented competition. 

“It’s always a highlight to play the top team in the
nation,” Kennedy said. “And to be able to put up five goals against
Stanford was important for us.”

As a Division III school, the Hens have not been able to
practice as much as many of their recent DI opponents. Coach Rodriguez noted
how he is impressed with the team’s endurance in the early part of the season.

“In our Concordia and
Air Force game, we were able to stay with each team in the first half and just
tired out as the game went on,” he said.  “It’s a good sign
because we have only been training for a few weeks, and they played together all
summer.”

On Saturday, Sept. 20, and Sunday, Sept. 21, the Hens head to Northern California to
partake in the esteemed NorCal Tournament at the University of the Pacific. The
team will face off against University of California, Los Angeles and two other teams to be decided on Saturday
and Sunday. Until then, the Sagehens will continue to work on perfecting their game
in practice.

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