Polo heads to SCIAC tournament

A late season surge gives the Panthers a punched ticket to the post-season.

Sophomore utility Jake Gross (8) passes to a teammate Wednesday against Pomona-Pitzer. Photo by Kate DeSalvo

Chapman’s men’s water polo team (13-14, 6-2) earned the third seed in the SCIAC tournament after defeating Whittier 15-9 Saturday afternoon.

Earlier in the week, Chapman lost 10-9 to Pomona-Pitzer (7-0, 11-14), but the rebound win over the Poets (10-14, 5-3) catapulted the Panthers into their first SCIAC tournament.

“It got us angry,” said senior goalie Taylor Roszkos of the loss to Pomona. “To lose like that, we knew we needed to come out and get a win against Whittier. We were ready to go.”

Fueled by the tough loss, the Panthers stormed out to an 8-2 lead at the half and the Poets could not keep up.

“Once we got up on them, we just concentrated on defense and controlling the ball,” said Head Coach Eric Ploessel.

Chapman’s scoring outburst was lead by junior utility Brett Carter and sophomore utility Jake Gross. Gross, who has recently been put into the starting lineup, has provided excellent play on both ends of the pool.

The victory over Whittier marked the 10th win in 12 games for the Panthers, who had not lost in nearly a month.

Against Pomona Wednesday, Chapman stormed out to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter, with goals by Gross, junior utility Kyle Toriano and freshman utility Willis Allen.

“The first half was one of the best halves we have played,” Roszkos said. “We just need to put together a full game.”

Pomona and Chapman traded goals during the second quarter, as the teams headed into halftime with a score of 5-3 (Allen added another goal and freshman utility Garrett Aanestad scored as well).

The third quarter was when things began to go wrong for the Panthers. They were doubled up by Pomona 4-2 in the quarter, bringing the score to 7-7. Aanestad scored again in the third quarter as junior driver James Vigeant added his first goal of the game.

“It always comes down to defense and turnovers,” Ploessel said. “That was our issue in the second half.”

Junior utility Kyle Troiana (15) shoots for a goal Wednesday against Pomona-Pitzer. Photo by Kate DeSalvo

Pomona took the lead early in the fourth quarter, before Vigeant answered with just over six minutes left. Pomona junior attacker Ryan Higgins and Chapman’s Carter traded goals within a minute and a half. Senior center Jason Cox put Pomona ahead for good, scoring a goal with under a minute to go, ending Chapman’s hopes.

Roszkos had seven blocks in his final game at the Allred Aquatics Center.

“Taylor has been our leader, and he has been such a great example for the team,” Ploessel said. “I told the team that because he is our goalie, we as a team needed to have his back and play great defense.”

Now that they regular season is over, all of Chapman’s focus is on the SCIAC tournament.

“It’s playoff time now, and we are ready,” Ploessel said.

Chapman will face Cal Lutheran Friday at 4 p.m. in first round of the SCIAC tournament, hosted by Whittier.

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