The Occidental men’s water polo team (5-19 overall, 0-3 SCIAC) looked to capture their first conference win of the season when they jumped into Taylor Pool to face off against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) on Saturday.
The Tigers attempted to keep the Stags on their hooves, implementing a new game plan that involved regular substitutions, creating greater offensive efficiency. In the end, the Tigers were unable to capitalize on the new system, falling 14-8.
“This week we have been working on subbing guys in and out after every few possessions—that way our opponent won’t get too comfortable or find a defensive rhythm,” Occidental head coach Larry Zubrin said. “There were also a few times where we seemed to throw the ball away, but that was planned, because we gave our defense a chance to get set instead of rushing a shot offensively.”
The team’s plan appeared to be working throughout the first quarter, as Occidental’s defense stonewalled CMS and allowed only four goals. Although the Tigers got off to a slow start offensively, attacker Sam Akiyama (senior) got the offense going when he squeezed a long goal underneath the CMS goalkeeper. Akiyama would go on to lead the offensive charge for the Tigers, netting a team high four goals on six attempts.
Despite holding the Stags to four goals in the first period, the Occidental defense struggled throughout the second quarter, allowing five unanswered goals as CMS pushed the Tiger deficit to 9-2.
“In the second period, I think we just lost some of the intensity and energy,” attacker Hank Franscioni (junior) said.
Following intermission, the Tigers appeared to regain their defensive ferocity from the first quarter, allowing just one goal during the entire third period. Anchoring the stout Occidental defensive effort was goalkeeper Adam Florsheim (sophomore), who collected 11 saves on the day after a shaky start.
“I just needed to calm myself down,” Florsheim said. “I was getting a little worked up and thinking too much in the first half, which did not allow me to play the game like I know I can.”
Outside of the goal, the Tiger defenders pestered the Stag attackers, limiting their opportunities to score. Center Paul Bergevin (sophomore) and defender Nick Heffner (senior) swarmed the CMS passing lanes, collectively grabbing seven steals. Bergevin also played a key role in facilitating Occidental’s offense, assisting four goals.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the defensive success did not carry over to the other end of the pool, as the offense scored just two goals during the third period. Occidental began to pick up their play towards the end of the fourth period and was able to put together a late run, tallying three goals.
“We did lose a bit of focus in the second half, and you just cannot do that against a very good team,” Zubrin said. “We talked about some of the little mistakes that we made in the second quarter during halftime, and we adjusted well and came back to play a really great second half.”
While the Tigers were able to outscore CMS in the second half 5-4, the early deficit was too much for Occidental to overcome.
Nonetheless, the Tigers will look to use this game as a building block for the second half of conference play.
“As long as we keep up the intensity and focus we had during the first quarter and the second half, I think we will play really well the remainder of the season,” Franscioni said.
Occidental will again attempt to capture its first conference victory of the season against Chapman at 4 p.m. today in Taylor Pool.