LV water polo hosts SCIAC

Posted Nov. 17, 2006
Sergio Sandoval
Steven Stragier blocks a goal attempt by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps during the third quarter of the first SCIAC Tournament match at La Verne. The sixth seeded Leopards sank the third seeded Stags, 12-8, on Friday.

With all the upsets going on recently at every level of competition, who would have thought that the No. 1 seed could actually win a tournament?

As it happens, the Redlands Bulldogs were able to pull off the expected and win the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Water Polo Championships at the La Verne Aquatics Center this past weekend, beating eighth-seeded Caltech, 16-3, fifth-seeded Cal Lutheran, 13-9, and second-seeded Pomona-Pitzer, 7-5, along the way.

The University of La Verne however wasn’t quite as successful, finishing fourth in the eight-team field.

“We’ve been fortunate to be successful,” Redlands head coach Tom Whittemore said. “We had to play our best. I’m pleased with how these guys played.”

After shaking the hands of the opposing Sagehens, the Bulldogs pushed both their coaches into the pool before jumping in to join them in celebration.

The Bulldogs now move on to the Western Water Polo Association Tournament at Pitzer College this weekend, where they will face the UC Davis Aggies in the first round.

The Leopards will also be going to the WWPA Tournament, facing Pomona-Pitzer in the opening round.

After winning their first game of the tournament, 12-8, against third-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, the Leopards just could not tough out their next two.

In the third-place game Sunday afternoon against Cal Lutheran, the game was back-and-forth for the first two quarters, with the Kingsmen leading 6-5 going into halftime after utility Ricardo Negron scored on a buzzer-beater.

The Leopards looked like fish out of water most of the third quarter, allowing the Kingsmen to up their lead to 9-5 on goals by sophomore driver Billy Doherty, junior two-meter Cody Shirk and freshman driver Jared Vermillion.

The teams then traded goals the rest of the game, with the Leopards falling just short at the end, 13-12.

“We came back with a good run,” freshman driver Mario Hernandez said. “It’s a heartbreaking end of the [SCIAC] season. I feel bad for the seniors.”

As far as one senior was concerned, “It’s frustrating, but a loss is a loss,” driver Justin Haas said. “I thought we’d finish them in the fourth, but it just didn’t happen. I don’t think the calls went our way.”

The Leopards had a well-balanced scoring attack with Negron, junior utility Seth Shelton, and junior utility Anthony Hernandez each contributing three goals, senior driver Darren Richards contributing two, and Mario Hernandez with one.

“In the fourth, [Cal Lu] had a lot of ejections and the opportunities were there,” Anthony Hernandez said. “We just needed guys to step up and score like we did.”

La Verne didn’t fare nearly as well against eventual runner-up Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday afternoon, falling by a score of 12-6.

The Sagehens dominated the first half, scoring eight goals to the Leopards two.

Both senior utility Tim Brown and junior utility Field Garthwaite contributed two goals for Pomona-Pitzer prior to the half.

“We just came out a little slow and they came out quick in the first quarter,” Richards said. “We just had a few breakdowns and too many ejections.”

The Leopards would come back to start the third with Negron, Shelton, Richards and junior utility Andrew McPartland scoring the next four goals to bring the score to 8-6.

However, much to the dismay of the team, those would be the last points La Verne would score in the game.

“[Pomona-Pitzer] converted a high percentage of six-on-fives and just shot the ball better,” head coach Tim Hugar said.

“They’re just a big, strong, physical team. When we tried to stop them inside they scored from the outside and when we tried to stop them from the outside they scored on the inside. It’s hard to stop a team like that,” Hugar added.

Even their Friday morning victory over the third-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags was tough to come by.

The game was even through the first half of play with the score 6-6.

The Stags struck first in the third quarter with goals by senior utility J.P. Wright and freshman utility Stephen Andron to take an 8-6 lead.

Then the La Verne utility trio of Negron, Shelton and McPartland took over.

Negron scored the first Leopards goal of the third quarter to bring the score to 8-7 before Shelton closed the quarter with a penalty shot and a buzzer-beater to give the Leopards a 9-8 lead.

“That changed the momentum, got everyone riled up,” Shelton said. “It put us ahead and gave us a confidence booster.”

With the Leopard defense stifling the Stags and not allowing a goal the entire fourth quarter, Shelton would tack on another goal in the fourth after McPartland scored two, the second coming midway through the quarter, to win 12-8.

“Everybody came out and played,” Negron said. “We wanted it bad, we played as a team, and we took advantage.”

Kevin Zeni can be reached at kzeni@ulv.edu.

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