Author: Donovan Dennis
The Occidental men’s water polo team (2-12 overall, 0-1 SCIAC) fell 12-4 to Pomona-Pitzer Saturday in the first home competition of the year at Taylor Pool.
The matchup started conference play for the Tigers, who had come off a series of tough games and tournaments against numerous ranked teams from across the country.
Their competitive season began in early September in Providence, Rhode Island, at Brown University’s Bruno Classic where the Tigers faced stiff competition from teams such as Brown and MIT. The following week, they took on Southern California NAIA, Division II and SCIAC teams at the Inland Empire Tournament at La Verne. The Tigers earned their first victories of the season in early October against Penn State-Behrend and Caltech at the Gary Troyer Memorial Tournament in Claremont.
“We kind of got our sea legs so that going into SCIAC play we can have our identity as a team and use that to our advantage,” Matt Weiser (sophomore) said. “Those are the programs that have success. It is like a model of where we want to be.”
The Sagehens led off Saturday’s home opener with an aggressive push, tallying a quick three points in the first four minutes of the game. With a little more than a minute to go in the first quarter, Paul Bergevin (junior) put the Tigers on the board with a power shot through the arms of the Pomona-Pitzer goalie Daniel Diemer. An additional Sagehen goal in the waning seconds of the first quarter brought the score to 4-1.
After the quarter break, the Tigers returned to hold the Sagehens to two points in the second quarter. Topher Lacramps (first-year) found the cage in the middle of the second, rounding out a quick first half that found the Occidental men behind Pomona-Pitzer 6-2.
A series of rapid-fire Sagehen goals in the beginning of the third spurred the Tiger defense, followed by a double-reply from Bergevin and Dominic Rodriquez (sophomore). Goalie Josh Needleman (senior) thrilled the homecoming crowd with several formidable blocks, keeping the Sagehens to three in the third quarter.
Several overthrown passes, a series of Pomona-Pitzer steals and a couple of close-but-no-cigar shots plagued the Tigers in the fourth, however, and the Sagehens rounded out the second half with another three goals, carrying the tally to 12-4 for the game.
“I thought we had some really good moments where we got some shots off that we needed to get,” head coach Chris Lee said. “Our offense was working the way I envisioned; we just needed to sharpen things up a little bit.”
For much of the game, the Tiger offense was strong, pressing hard into Pomona-Pitzer territory to get shots off.
“A lot of what we have done has been about getting people on the same page,” Lee said. ‘There are a lot of opportunities in a game like this to be able to run plays. I think our guys are paying attention to what we are working on, and we are doing things right.”
Needleman agreed, noting that the team should work on pressure passing and defense going into the rest of SCIAC play.
“I think that this pool is an equalizer, and we just need to learn how to play in it.” Needleman said. “We don’t have enough players to scrimmage in this pool six on six, so when we play a game we are not used to that kind of environment. Practice is very different from what a game is like.”
Taylor Pool, built in 1930, is the oldest pool in use for SCIAC competition and one of the oldest pools in the country still used competitively in the NCAA. Whereas other pools have more than six lanes that allow games to be played entirely in deep water, games in Taylor pool are played from the shallow end to deep end. Additionally, the out-of-bounds lines are the high gutters that surround Taylor Pool, whereas in other SCIAC pools the boundaries are lane lines.
Looking forward to today’s game against Whittier, Needleman remained positive.
“Whittier graduated a lot of their players, but they maintain a strong roster,” he said. “I expect it to be a hard game, but it will not be impossible”
The Tigers take on the Whittier Poets tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Taylor Pool.
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