The Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (19-8, 7-0 SCIAC) suited up on Saturday to take on one of the toughest teams on their schedule: the No. 5 University of California, Santa Barbara Gauchos (16-6, 4-0 Conf.). In a close match, the Gauchos outlasted the Sagehens by a final score of 13-9.
Although the Sagehens fell, this showing was an improvement over their last challenge against the Gauchos. On the first day of the season, the Sagehens lost to UCSB 18-3 at the Triton tournament in San Diego.
This time around, the Sagehens were much better prepared. Going into the half, the score was a narrow 9-6 in Santa Barbara’s favor. By the end of the third period, the Gauchos rose to 12-7, their biggest lead of the night.
In the final period, P-P outscored their opponents 2-1, but were unable to overcome the deficit.
Luckily for the Sagehens, the second game of the day ended on a brighter note as they conquered the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds (9-18, 1-6 Conf.) with a score of 8-5. The first half ended in a 3-3 tie, but the second half was all Hens.
James Baker PO ’17 earned a hat trick in his game against the Sunbirds, a good way to round off his last in-season non-SCIAC match.
“I think the biggest difference [between] playing UCSB versus [Fresno Pacific] would be the mentality you need going into the game,” James reflected. “By that, I mean you have to tell yourself that you can play [at the same level as] teams such as UCSB. It is easy to mentally check out before the game even starts and make excuses for why you might lose.”
As a senior, James has seen his fair share of tough matchups in the pool. For him, his mentality leading up to the game is a key part of success.
“The biggest thing is to not focus on winning or losing, but, rather, making sure each play offensively and defensively is perfect.”
When performing against teams as skilled and proficient as the Gauchos, having the proper mindset can be the difference between winning and losing.
“We knew we were underdogs coming into the game, so it was not a huge surprise when they jumped ahead early,” James said. “We just continued to focus on our game and what we could control.”
“Of course,” he confessed, “we want to win every game, and when we are behind sometimes we can force shots or make mistakes on defense.”
But, this determination to succeed is essential for the team’s prosperity.
“Staying focused on what we can control helps us keep playing hard even if we may be down,” James concluded.
The P-P men’s water polo team next plays on Saturday, Nov. 12, at home against Chapman University (4-17, 2-5 SCIAC).