Stags Defeat Caltech, Fall in Overtime Battle to Whittier

Despite a triumphant win against
Caltech on Sunday, Nov. 1, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men’s
water polo team experienced their first SCIAC loss against Whitter College on Nov. 5, shattering their five-win streak in overtime.

Before
their conference slate began, the Stags took on a plethora of Division 1 teams
including University of California, Irvine, University of California, Los Angeles, and Pepperdine University. Although the top-ranked teams put up
a fierce fight, the Stags saw the challenge as good preparation for the rest of
their season.

“It’s a different style of play,”
McClatchy Ruskin CM ’15 said. “It is a lot more physical, and the game is a lot
more fast-paced. The transition from the DI teams to the DIII teams makes the
game a little easier, and we have more confidence.”

Their hard work paid off as the
Stags racked up five consecutive wins to begin conference play, including a
triumphant 14-6 victory over California Institute of Technology (7-16, 0-5 SCIAC).

In that game, CMS came out strong, with Peter Tilton CM ’18 scoring back-to-back goals to give the Stags a 5-0
advantage. CMS then maintained its momentum by scoring two more unanswered points
in the rest of the quarter.

The Stags tacked on another three
points in both the second and the third quarters to earn a comfortable, nine-point
lead going into the final quarter. Between a pair of ejections, Arya Nakhjavani
CM ’18 scored the final point for the Stags.

Scoring came from ten different
players during the game. All eligible swimmers saw time in the pool against
Caltech, showcasing the wide breadth of talent on CMS team.

“Our success can be greatly
attributed to the team’s chemistry,” Peter Tilton CM ’18 said. “We understand
our strengths and weaknesses and know what our roles in the pool are.”

On Wednesday night CMS faced off
against Whittier (16-12, 5-0 SCIAC), another team undefeated in SCIAC. But CMS was unable to hold
on to its flawless record and relinquished the win to Whittier in a tense
overtime.

Scoring was abundant for both teams. The Stags aggressively fought for possession of the ball, but
Whittier pulled away with the lead at the end of the half. In the third quarter the
momentum briefly swung back into the hands of the Stags. Two consecutive goals
stretched the score to 10-8, and CMS took the lead.

“The highlight of the game was having
the team come together and push to counter, make fluid passes, and push a really
good team such as Whittier.” Tilton said.

The fourth quarter was a tight
drive for both CMS and Whittier as the score remained at a deadlocked 10-10. After the clock rang out on
standard playtime, the teams dove into a two-minute overtime, which would
ultimately result in the fall of one undefeated team.

But the tension proved to be too
much for CMS, and the game ended in a viciously close 11-12 win in Whittier’s
favor.  

“As a team we need to work on
finishing games,” Tilton said. “ We are really good three quarters of the game, but
we have a tendency in the fourth quarter to have mental lapses and
become stagnant on the offensive end.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the
season, the Stags hope to end their season with wins and continue their
dominance in the water. However, the Stags have bigger
ambitions as a team outside the water as well. Academic achievement holds a high priority for all players
on the CMS team. As a result, they are aiming for the highest GPA on campus, a
goal highly encouraged by coach Greg Lonzo.

“One of the things I ask from my
upperclassmen is to really help the younger guys stay focused and maintain that
academic discipline,” Lonzo said. “ Especially at this point in the season
where we are really focusing on water polo and we spend a lot of time doing
extra stuff for the sport.”

The team
appreciates their coach’s encouragement of their accomplishments both in and out of
the water and works to maintain their close competitive dynamic in an academic setting as well.

“One of the greatest things about
Coach Lonzo is his emphasis on the importance of academics,” Ruskin said. “I
don’t think that is common with a lot of coaches. The academic piece is nice
because it’s another way we can help each other out. We are like a little
community.”

The Stags will be back in the water
on Saturday, Nov. 8, when they host yet another undefeated team, Chapman
University (14-7, 5-0 SCIAC) at 10 a.m.

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