After an 11-9 loss against Whittier College, the second-place team in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), on Wednesday, Nov. 9, the Chapman men’s water polo team lost 12-8 to first-place Pomona-Pitzer in its final regular season game on Saturday, Nov. 12.
After the loss to Whittier (17-11, 6-1), head coach Eric Ploessel credited Chapman’s opponents and maintained positivity despite Chapman (4-18, 2-6) having a losing record.
“It’s a rival game, and it’s always intense when we play them,” Ploessel said. “I’m proud of how we’re playing right now. We’ve got ourselves in a huge hole in our conference. We just had some early season losses in conference, and that put us in a big hole. The past two weeks, we started to really, really play well, but it’s a little late.”
Ploessel maintained his upbeat analysis after Chapman’s loss to Pomona-Pitzer (20-8, 8-0), despite it placing the Panthers in eighth out of nine SCIAC spots.
“Pomona is the No. 1 team, who’s undefeated in the league and No. 15 in the nation, who’s beaten the University of California, Irvine, Loyola Marymount University and the University of California, San Diego,” Ploessel said. “They’ve played some really good teams, and this was a good game. I think we had one quarter – that third quarter was pretty bad. But we’re starting to play some really good water polo.”
By the end of the first quarter, Pomona-Pitzer was leading with a score of 4-2, but the Panthers were able to pull the gap to one goal with a score of 6-5 by halftime. Despite Chapman closing the gap, Pomona-Pitzer was able to jump out further ahead in the second half and held on for the 12-8 win.
Senior utility player Corey Plaster was able to score four goals in the game, though his efforts failed to lead Chapman to a win.
“It was a great feeling,” Plaster said. “I can’t score goals without my team being behind me, and today they were feeding me the ball when I was open and I was lucky enough to put those shots away.”
Ploessel praised his team for limiting the damage against Pomona-Pitzer.
“Earlier in the year – even three weeks ago – that team (Pomona-Pitzer) would probably have beaten us by 10 or 12,” Ploessel said. “In the past two weeks we’re finally starting to play really well. That’s a good thing that we’re playing well when it matters, but we’ve kind of dug ourselves in a big, huge hole. We’re 2-6 for our conference, and I think we’re going to be seventh seed for next weekend and play Whittier, who we just played on Wednesday and it was a good game.”
Unlike other sports in the SCIAC, every water polo team receives a bid to the SCIAC playoffs regardless of its standing in the conference. While each regular season game is worth one point per win, a different number of points are awarded for each postseason game a team wins, with the value increasing the further teams go into the tournament. A team may win the tournament, but the team with the highest number of points throughout the entire season will be declared the conference champion.
While Chapman has a slim chance of winning the conference championship, Plaster said he and the rest of the team are focused on winning the first game of the postseason on Nov. 18.
“Going into the postseason tournament, the thing I’m focusing on as well as my teammates is that we have a great opportunity to win some games and ruin some SCIAC teams’ records,” Plaster said. “This season definitely had its ups and downs, but after our Colorado tournament (at the Air Force Academy), we really came together as a team, and at the end of the season, I can say with my heart that I’m so proud of this team and how we have been playing these past few games.”
The Panthers will head to the postseason tournament next weekend, though their opponent and game schedule have not yet been released because there is one more conference game to be played in the SCIAC.