The women’s water polo team beat Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) competitor Caltech 12–7 at home, making the team’s current in-season record 3–19. This win was particularly significant given the plays and goals by Hi’ipoi Lee (senior) and Monica Chernoff (sophomore), according to head coach Jack Stabenfelt ’14.
The team beat Caltech on two different occasions this season. In addition to the match on April 4, they also competed against the Beavers on March 7, posting a final score of 18–2.
“They were missing their best player, who is a swimmer and was away at nationals the first time we played them,” Chernoff said. “We [the water polo team] knew that Caltech was going to be a strong competitor.”
Overall, the younger team dynamic has helped contribute to these two wins against Caltech, according to Stabenfelt. Out of a full roster size of 11 athletes, six of them are first years. Last season, the team had six seniors. This year the first years have been working extraordinarily hard in and outside the pool, according to Stabenfelt. He is excited about the future of the program given the size and depth of the first year class.
According to Chernoff, coaching has been a lot different this year compared to past seasons. Stabenfelt was officially made head coach of both the men’s and women’s water polo teams in 2017 following one year of serving as interim head coach. As an Occidental alumnus, Stabenfelt brings personal experience to both teams. During his tenure on the team 2010–2013, he was an All-SCIAC selection, team MVP and a two-time All-American.
“I’m honored to continue coaching at my alma mater,” Stabenfeldt said in a statement for the Occidental Athletic Department website. “We have a great group of student athletes that deserve consistent leadership.”
Lee attributed the success of the game to the functional and close-knit team bonding, and the excellent coaching that has been apparent throughout her tenure at Occidental on the water polo team. Bringing in two additional coaches, Sean Grab and Christian Fischer, has also brought momentous progress to the team, and has also contributed to the most recent wins against Caltech, Lee said.
“The outcome [of last year’s season] is honestly very comparable to this year’s,” Lee said.
Lee played an absolutely outstanding game, according to Stabenfelt. Chernoff said she is a great captain and leader as the only senior on the team.
“She is an unbelievable athlete and the first one who I have been able to coach for all four years,” Stabenfelt said.
Chernoff and Lee scored four goals each in the April 4 matchup. Additionally, Lee racked up four steals and an assist in the same game. Other scorers include Chelsea Evans (first year), Cassidy Evans (first year) and Lori Berberian (sophomore) who each scored one goal and one assist.
“They are very coachable and overall great people,” Stabenfelt said.
The first quarter is always close regardless of the game, according to Stabenfelt. With the help of all of the scorers, the Tigers were able to pull significantly ahead and take on a big lead with a 6–0 run during the second quarter.
According to Stabenfelt, the Tigers are hoping to carry this momentum throughout the remainder of the season. With more recruiting occurring for next year, the team continues to expand and grow with big goals ahead. Lee said that the biggest goal for the program is to win the SCIACs championship within the next four years, which is a very realistic possibility.
The Tigers’ next game is at home April 18 against the Whittier College Poets.