Sagehens Face No. 1 USC, No. 2 UCLA On Opening Day
Claremont, Calif. - The defending SCIAC champion Pomona-Pitzer Men's Water Polo team opens the 2012 season on Saturday, when it faces national powers USC and UCLA, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in the preseason Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) poll, at the UCLA Invitational in Westwood.
Pomona-Pitzer is ranked No. 1 in Division III in the preseason CWPA rankings and is coming off a season in which it finished 15-20 overall, including 9-1 in the SCIAC. The nine wins included a dramatic 7-4 victory over CMS in the conference championship match (which was tied 4-4 going in the fourth quarter, and was 5-4 with a minute to play).
The Sagehens enter 2012 with perhaps one of the strongest teams they have ever had on paper. Only two seniors were lost from last year's squad, including All-SCIAC goalie Kyle Pokorny and valuable attacking player Jaron Moler (who had the game-winning goal in the SCIAC championship). However, a deep, talented roster returns, led by three senior starters with a mantel full of individual honors.
Current senior Jason Cox (Arnold, Md.) was the top scorer on the Sagehens last year (65 goals) and figures to be a potent offensive weapon once again after earning first-team All-America honors from the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC). Senior Mark Hudnall (Los Altos, Calif.) was a first-team All-SCIAC and second-team All-Western Water Polo Association selection and was the team's second-leading scorer, while senior defender Cody Moore (San Dimas, Calif.) was a second-team ACWPC All-American selection.
Also returning to the starting line-up is sophomore Stephen Vint (El Cajon, Calif.), who led the Sagehens in assists last year on his way to earning SCIAC Rookie of the Year honors. A strong junior class is returning as well, including goalie Tyler Hill (Lafayette, Calif.), center Jarrod Gaut (Irvine, Calif.), utility player Dylan O'Connell (River Forest, Ill.), and attackman Ryan Higgins (Orinda, Calif.), who all played key roles on last season's team. Travis Larsen (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) joined Vint to give the Sagehens two freshmen in the usual starting line-up a year ago.
This year's squad will also be one of the deepest that Head Coach Alex Rodriguez has had in his eight-year tenure, as the roster features 23 players in all, as six freshmen join the program (joining seven sophomores, five juniors and five seniors). Pomona-Pitzer continued to find local talent from California, but also recruited Pieter Derdeyn from St. Louis and goalie Carter Lipnick from Washington, D.C. to extend its reach cross-country.
The Sagehens are opening the season against the top two teams in the nation, but they are accustomed to playing a grueling schedule. Of last year's 20 losses, 16 came against teams ranked in the top 15 in the nation, including two matches against USC and one against UCLA, which was played at home at Haldeman Pool (pictured is Cody Moore firing a shot in the UCLA match last year).