Akiyama registers triple hat trick in victory over Caltech

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Author: Ryan Whalen

The Occidental men’s water polo team (2-21 overall, 1-6 SCIAC) celebrated its Senior Night Wednesday, honoring the collegiate careers of Kevin Coleman, Christian Erwin, Patrick Fish, Kirk Follette and Jack Stabenfeldt.

Before his squad’s match against conference-leader Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), head coach Larry Zubrin congratulated his veteran-most players and awarded each with an Occidental letter.

The final home game in Taylor Pool represented the culmination of hours of hard work and practice that the five graduating seniors put forth during their respective careers.

“Sharing the pool for four hours a day with my fellow classmates and friends over the past four seasons has been the best experience of my life,” Stabenfeldt said. “My best memories have been with them.”

Despite playing against the top-ranked team in the SCIAC, the black and orange had one of its best games of the season, pushing the Stags the entire game before eventually falling 16-9.

The match was a metaphor of the Tigers’ season as a whole, as Occidental’s tenacity was overshadowed by an inconsistent offense. According to Zubrin, the source of the men’s struggles is more complex than just their performance in the pool.

“We’ve had a very challenging season to say the least, and we’ve had to overcome several setbacks due to injuries that have slowed our progress throughout the year,” he said.

Though the Tigers were unable to find success on Senior Night, the unit did manage to capture its first league victory of the season Saturday against Caltech.

Clinging to a one-point lead at halftime, the Occidental offense exploded in the late going, netting 10 goals in the second half alone.

Junior Sam Akiyama led the way with a career-best nine goals, eight of which came in the contest’s final two quarters.

Coleman chipped in with a goal of his own and Stabenfeldt, the black and orange’s go-to utility player, registered a season-high five assists.

Coleman and Stabenfeldt have both cemented themselves as vital assets within the Tigers’ offensive scheme.

Both players score consistently and try to boost the team in every way possible.

“All the seniors are a great group of guys, they bring a lot of experience to the team and they are all really good water polo players, which definitely helps out,” Hank Franscioni (sophomore) said.

Beyond the main corps of players’ impact on the box score, Zubrin believes the leadership role of each senior has established camaraderie and commitment outside the pool as well as in it.

“Erwin has proven to be a great mentor to some of the younger players, always willing to provide advice and assistance, while Fish and Follette are great motivators, as they always find a way to keep the team in good spirits by putting the team in proper perspective,” he said.

The departure of the veteran players will leave a large gap for the program moving forward, a space that will have to be filled by younger players stepping up to take on new roles and through Zubrin’s recruiting.

“Next year’s team will definitely be a new dynamic, but I have seen moments of brilliance from every member of the team this season, which makes me confident in the program’s future,” Stabenfeldt said.

The Tigers travel to Cal Lutheran Saturday at 4 p.m. for their final game of the regular season.

 

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