Jason Cox PZ ’13 prepared for one-on-one confrontation and looked over his left shoulder to intercept a long rebound pass hurtling towards Redlands goalkeeper Tyler Abbott ’14. As Cox swam closer to the net, Abbott jumped out of the water in front of him, as if to block the impending shot. But instead of shooting the ball into Abbott’s outstretched arms, Cox dove to the left, finding the open goal to give the Sagehens an 11-9 lead. With 1:42 left in the fourth quarter, it was all they needed for victory.
Going into Wednesday’s game tied with Redlands at the top of the SCIAC standings, the Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team endured a rocky game against a tough team in which the tempo changed many times over the course of the night. With their final 11-10 win against the Bulldogs, the Sagehens are 9-17 overall and 5-1 in conference play. They remain in a three-way tie for first place with CMS and Cal Lutheran, both of which won on Wednesday as well.
Although the Bulldogs scored the first goal of the game, the Sagehens set the pace for the entire first half.
“We came out real hard,” said goalkeeper and captain Kyle Pokorny PO ’12. “We were putting our shots away, and we were playing great defense.”
The Hens got off to a 4-1 lead by the end of the first quarter and led 7-4 at the end of the half. The team was notably helped by Jarrod Gaut PZ ’14, who scored three goals in the first half despite playing with a torn labrum. It was his first game back with the team.
“He’s the lynchpin of our offense,” Pokorny said. “When he’s in there setting at two meters, they really have to pay attention to him and drop off our shooters on the outside.”
The Bulldogs staged a comeback, outscoring the Sagehens 4-2 in a third quarter where an unusually high number of fouls were called on the Hens.
“The kick-out ratio was really lopsided,” Pokorny said about the game. “Luckily, we were able to capitalize on the offensive opportunities we had.”
The Bulldogs tied the score at 8-8 with two minutes left in the quarter, but a goal by Stephen Vint PZ ’15 with 15 seconds left put the team up 9-8.
“[Water polo is] like the NBA,” said Alex Rodriguez, head coach. “Everybody makes a run, and when they make a run you have to try to stop them as best as you can.”
“They cannot keep up with us for four quarters!” a Redlands player yelled, attempting to motivate his team before the final quarter began. It worked, but ultimately it wasn’t quite enough to put the Bulldogs on top. With multiple missed shots on both sides, the last quarter was a battle. The Bulldogs finally broke through to tie the game 9-9 with 3:49 left, but two goals in the final two minutes by Cox and Clayton Hardman PO ’15 gave the Hens the final victory.
“Redlands is a good team,” Pokorny said. “We’re pretty stoked that we took them out.”
The Sagehens also found success last Saturday, overpowering Caltech 19-12 in a morning match and giving USC, ranked second nationally, an early fight that ended with a 12-5 loss that afternoon.
The Sagehens took some time to find their footing against the Caltech Beavers, trading goals to reach a slim 4-3 lead by the end of the first quarter. The game remained tight until midway through the second quarter, when the Hens offense outscored the Beavers 4-1 to give P-P a 10-5 lead at the half. The team came out strong in the third quarter, scoring five unanswered goals to make the score 15-5 and effectively seal the win.
In the afternoon, the Hens faced off against three-time consecutive national champions USC, to whom they had lost 21-1 in a match earlier this season. The team came out firing, taking an initial 2-1 lead and playing a close game until the Trojans blew it open with a 4-0 second quarter. Down 8-3 at the half, The Hens held the Trojans to one goal in the third quarter while scoring one of their own, but were unable to erase the deficit. USC earned three more points in the fourth quarter to make the final score 12-5.
The Sagehens will look to continue their conference victories in the SCIAC tournament after they hosting their final two games of the regular season this Saturday against Cal Lutheran—another key SCIAC matchup—and Air Force at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.