The Pomona-Pitzer men's water polo team had a rollercoaster weekend at the Gary Troyer Memorial Tournament, playing five games against opponents from across the nation. After defeating No. 2 Johns Hopkins University (12-5) on Thursday, Oct. 1, in a tight match, the Hens lost two close games on Friday, Oct. 2, before bouncing back to pick up two wins on Saturday, Oct. 3. The games featured large, boisterous home crowds and close matches, as the Sagehens ended the weekend with a 3-2 record, moving their overall record to 6-7.
Thursday night, the Sagehens took on the Johns Hopkins Jays in a nighttime battle at Haldeman Pool. P-P wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, as defender Phillip Clayman PO '16 rocketed a shot into the back of the net just 90 seconds into the game. The large crowd was immediately into the game and behind the Sagehens, helping P-P extend their lead.
Utility player Adam Ward PO '19 took a nice feed close to the net and scored the second goal for the Sagehens two minutes later. P-P continued their offensive momentum in the second quarter behind goals from Clayman, attacker James Baker PO '17 and hole set Nic Lanker PO '17. By halftime, the Hens had a 6-2 lead.
In the second half, Johns Hopkins began putting heavy pressure on the Sagehens, narrowing the score. However, goalkeeper Daniel Diemer PZ '18 had some tremendous saves in the cage and did not allow Johns Hopkins to equalize the score, as the Hens took the match 10-9.
On Friday, the Hens tried to take their momentum from the upset against Johns Hopkins into a battle with Fresno Pacific University (5-7). Led by Clayman, who scored three goals in the game, the Hens were plagued with defensive mishaps and could not keep Fresno Pacific from scoring. Both attacker Tommy Turner PO '17 and attacker Mark Hallman PO '18 were ejected three times in the game, causing them both to have to leave the game. With an already small roster, these defensive mistakes proved to be critical for the Sagehens. Lanker scored twice in the fourth quarter to bring the game within three goals, and Diemer stopped a total of 18 shots, but Fresno Pacific held off the Hens, taking the match 13-10.
Friday night proved to be the most heart-wrenching match for the Sagehens as they faced off against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (6-7). Down two goals with six minutes to play, Ward and Turner both finessed their way through the MIT defense to score and tie the match with two minutes to play. As the clock was winding down and the ball was at center-pool with 10 second to play, the game looked to be headed into overtime. However, MIT swam the ball up the pool and found an open man next to the goal, lobbing the ball past Diemer for a buzzer-beater goal.
After the two losses on Friday, the Sagehens were able to keep their heads up going into Satuday.
“We have a great mentality on the team this year, which has been crucial to our success,” attacker Matt Alexander PO '17 said. “Even after the tough loss to MIT, we knew we played a good game and could bounce back. We followed our plan that we've been practicing all season.”
The Hen's resilience proved itself on Saturday, as the team picked up two convincing victories against George Washington University (3-14) and Washington & Jefferson College (7-8), by final scores of 15-5 and 14-6, respectively. Clayman tallied eight goals across the two games, and the Sagehen bench contributed heavily in both matches as well.
“Our ability to rebound quickly shows how great our team is in tough situations,” attacker Neil Forsythe PO '16 said about the victories on Saturday.
The Hens will travel to Malibu this coming weekend to face some of the toughest competition in the nation at the annual SoCal Tournament, and are confident in their abilities to battle against their opponents.
“If we take the same attitude into this coming weekend, I believe we can come away with some wins against top-15 Division I teams,” Forsythe said.