The Chapman men’s water polo team finished its season in sixth place after splitting four games in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) postseason tournament.
Head coach Eric Ploessel said that despite losing to California Lutheran University on Sunday, which concluded the Panthers’ postseason run, the team’s quality of play improved at the end of the season.
“Today (Sunday) we got a loss, and that was rough, but the way we started playing the last two or three weeks, we played really well,” Ploessel said. “That’s what I was the most proud of. That we started playing really well toward the end. I was really proud of how we finished the season.”
The Panthers’ first game of the tournament was Friday, Nov. 18 against second-place Whittier College. After falling into an early deficit, the Panthers were unable to bring the game level again and Whittier overcame Chapman 12-9.
“We hung with (Whittier) for three quarters really,” Ploessel said. “In the first quarter, we dug ourselves a big hole. It was 3-0 for them, and we ended up losing by three. We chipped away and got close but could never tie it or take the lead. In the first quarter, we were trying too hard to do things. We made adjustments and we started playing really well.”
After the loss to Whittier on Friday, the Panthers went on to play the California Institute of Technology on Saturday in an elimination game. Chapman found its groove in the game to defeat Caltech 19-5. Junior center Jeff O’Brien scored five goals against Caltech, while freshman driver Keith Kulick scored a hat trick.
After avoiding elimination against Caltech, Chapman went on to play Occidental College later on Saturday and the Panthers notched their second win of the day with a score of 11-6. Both O’Brien and sophomore two-meter defender Brady Hoskins were able to record hat tricks during the game.
“Occidental – who we lost to maybe three weeks ago at their pool – is a really tough place to play at, and we played such good defense,” Ploessel said.
Following the pair of wins on Saturday, the men’s water polo team went on to play Cal Lutheran in the fifth-place game on Sunday. Despite keeping the game close, Chapman fell to Cal Lutheran 11-8, concluding its season with a sixth-place finish in the SCIAC.
“We had to play four games, and you have to be at it for all four games because every team is tough,” Ploessel said. “We have to be at our best every single day. That was rough, but overall, I was proud of how we played.”
Ploessel said the team has been working on its defense, which only allowed 34 goals during the tournament, while the offense scored 47 goals.
“(Defense) really helped us the last few weeks,” Ploessel said. “We didn’t get the win – the last win – which I really wanted, but overall, I’m proud of the way we were playing the last couple of weeks.”