The first three quarters of the game had been tough for the No. 16 nationally Division III-ranked Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo team (17-10, 8-1 SCIAC) against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags (11-14, 6-5 SCIAC). By the end of the third quarter, the Sagehens had managed to create a fair number of chances to score, yet they trailed 5-4 to their cross-street rivals.
Early in the first quarter, Robert Driscoll CM '21 set the Stags into action by responding quickly to a goal from Adam Gross PZ '21. His prompt response set teammates Peter Tilton CM '18 and Zack Rossman CM '20 on a roll. They buried two more shots in the net and put the Stags in a two-point lead three minutes into the second quarter. On all accounts, it looked like the beginnings of an upset for the Sagehens.
But P-P didn't plan to let them go easily. Riley Mangan PZ '20 put one in two minutes after Rossman, with Dylan Elliott PO '21 filling in for the tie at 3-3 just before half.
It didn't help the Hens that CMS keeper Ethan Lewis CM '20 seemed unstoppable. “[Lewis] played a great game,” said PP head coach Alexander Rodriguez. “We struggled to finish our opportunities against him.”
While Lewis continued holding his ground in the goal in the third quarter, Driscoll squeezed a shot past Daniel Diemer PZ '18, with Noah Deer CM '18 following up less than a minute later to put the Stags ahead by two once more.
But despite a strong performance, CMS was unable to maintain their lead through the fourth quarter. P-P scored three consecutive goals from Mark Hallman PO '18, Cade Curry PZ '20, and Adam Ward PO '19.
“We came out with a lot more intensity in the fourth quarter,” said P-P head coach Alexander Rodriguez. “I’m not sure why we didn’t play with energy the first three quarters, but when the fourth quarter started I could tell we were more urgent than we were in the first three quarters.”
That energy yielded a positive result for the Sagehens as they scraped through the fourth quarter to clinch a 6-5 victory over the Stags.
“I think we can play a lot better than we have,” Rodriguez said when asked what his team needed to improve as they move into the stretch run of the season. “We are very young and make a lot of mistakes. We need to get more consistent on offense and really limit our turnovers. … If we improve on both of these aspects of our game, we should be able to accomplish our team goals.”
It was a tough loss for the Stags to take, as all three of the last games of the season will now be of paramount importance if CMS hopes to qualify for the SCIAC playoffs.
Next, the Sagehens will play a doubleheader at home on Saturday, Nov. 4, first against Redlands, and then Occidental. With four games remaining and only one conference loss to date, P-P is in very strong position to reach the SCIAC playoffs.
Meanwhile, CMS will play at La Verne next Saturday. With only three games left, they will need to win at least two to remain in playoff contention.