On Sat. Nov. 11, Pomona-Pitzer men’s water polo celebrated senior Sagehen athletes Daniel Diemer PZ ’18 and Mark Hallman PO ’18 on Senior Day. After the ceremony, they were able to roll to a 8-4 victory over Chapman (10-4), a 16-6 victory over Caltech (2-12), and a first-place finish in the regular SCIAC season, with a 13-1 record.
Going into Saturday’s matches, Diemer said he “wanted to treat it like any other game, but the boys were out there to win the game for Mark and [me].”
The P-P’s underclassmen players wanted nothing more than to win the last home competitions for their seniors.
“Senior day is always full of emotion, especially with this year’s seniors – Dan and Mark are both phenomenal players and people – and I was glad we could give them two victories,” Jacob Niskey PO ’20 said.
Dylan Elliot PO ‘21 agreed with Niskey’s sentiments, and said Diemer and Hallman played an instrumental role in helping him adjust to the college-athlete lifestyle. “Mark and Dan have always been there to help me in anyway they can and show me the ropes of how to be successful,” he said.
Adam Ward PO ’19 recognized Diemer as “the perfect captain” and “the most motivational figure in the pool,” while attributing the strong sense of team morale and fun to Hallman.
“Dan is an irreplaceable player and leader,” Niskey said. As for Hallman, he said, “There is nobody in the world like Mark. He is fast as hell in the water.”
After the Senior Day festivities, Saturday’s match began. Niskey and Ward scored two goals each against Chapman. Noah Sasaki PO ‘21 and Hallman both contributed two assists, while Diemer had nine saves and three steals. The game was quite heated, ending with 17 exclusions, P-P outscored their Chapman opponents with strong defense and solid offense.
With just over three minutes left in the first period of Saturday’s match against Chapman, Hallman assisted teammate Zach Senator PO ’20 in scoring the first goal of the game. The Chapman Panthers responded with strong offense, tying the score at 1-1 before the first period came to a conclusion.
Though the second period was mostly marked by solid defense from the Panthers, Ward and Adam Gross PZ ’21 both found gaps in Chapman’s defense, bringing the Sagehens to a 3-1 lead.
The Panthers countered, scoring a goal of their own to close the first half at 3-2.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Ward scored his second goal of the game, and Niskey added another goal to P-P’s tally after the Panthers suffered from an another exclusion. The Panthers scored an additional goal during the third period, ending the quarter with the Sagehens leading 6-3.
Battling against solid power play from the Chapman Panthers, Niskey’s second and Riley Mangan’s PZ ’20 first goals placed the Sagehens on top by the end of the fourth period, despite an additional goal being scored by the Panthers.
In regards to the Chapman match, Diemer felt that it “was a good fight” that would prepare the team well for “all kinds of adversity” at the SCIAC tournament next weekend.
P-P also showed their dominance against the Caltech Beavers. Maxwell Bethel PO ’21 scored four goals and Ward scored an additional three goals. As goalkeeper, James Kelbert PO ’20 made seven saves as well as steals, and scored a goal of his own. Keegan Coleman PZ ’21 had five steals, while Senator contributed three assists.
Within one minute of the game beginning, Niskey scored the first goal. Even though the Beavers diligently followed up each of the Sagehens’ goals with goals of their own, the Sagehens kept ahead 4-3. Meanwhile, in the second period, the Sagehens and Beavers each only scored one goal.
With aggressive efforts from Ward, Cade Curry PZ ’20, and Bethel, P-P men’s water polo finished the third quarter with a 9-5 lead.
Although Caltech scored a goal in the first minute of the fourth, the Sagehens won with another seven goals in that quarter.
Reflecting on the season as a whole, Diemer acknowledged how the “young talent … have brought a new competitive edge to this team just in terms of skill.”
Hallman had similar feelings, citing that one of their main challenges has stemmed from these “growing pains water polo-wise. But what remains constant is my love for the team and the guys who come through.”
Meanwhile, Diemer and Hallman hope that the team can participate in a play-in game at the NCAAs. To Hallman, “last year’s play-in was an incredible experience and [we] ended up losing to [UC Berkeley]. This year, we hope we can get back there and hopefully take a game this time.”
Both Diemer and Hallman are coming to terms with the end of their last season as Sagehen water polo players. “[Senior Day] was definitely bittersweet,” said Hallman. “It’s been an incredible journey with this team and I’m sad that it’s finally coming to an end.”
Diemer reflected on the strong P-P team bonds, something he values more after playing for the Sagehens. “Until I came here I played for myself, but over the years I’ve realized that every game is much more than that,” he commented. “That’s why every time I put on the #1 it means something special to me. Now nothing motivates me more than playing for this team.”
After four years as a Sagehen, Diemer is sad that his journey concludes soon. “There is something about Haldeman Pool that makes it incredible,” he said. “The coaches, the players, the parents, the fans, and the history make this pool the best place to compete. Playing under those lights is something special that I’m going to miss the once this season is over.”