Kingsmen Gear up for New Season, New Rule Changes

For the California Lutheran University men’s water polo team, there is no shortage of change in the 2018 season.

The Kingsmen are challenged with the task of adjusting to new USA Water Polo rule changes. According to the USA Water Polo website, 20 rule changes have been added in an effort to make the game cleaner and safer.

“I agree with the changes made and think that this is really going to help the sport,” said Head Coach and Associate Aquatics Director Craig Rond. “The rules committee is making a conscious effort to try and change the flow of the game from more of a brutal type of physical game to more a finesse type of game.”

In Tuesday night’s scrimmage against the Los Angeles Valley College Monarchs, the Kingsmen got their first taste of playing with the rule changes.

“The first half of the game was really rough adjusting to the new rules,” said junior attacker Seth Hightower. “The refs weren’t letting us play as aggressive as we’re used to, but as we progressed throughout the game, we started adapting to the rules and referees and were able to come together and play the way we’re used to.”

The game ended in a draw 16-16. While the Kingsmen were able to adapt to the rule changes, Rond said he saw things that needed improvement.

“First and foremost, we need to improve on defense,” Rond said. “We can’t give up 16 goals in a game and hope to be successful. We’re going to have to get used to the new rules, but at the end of the day, our goal is to hold teams to two goals and under a quarter. We’re going to make our identity…be great on defense and let the rest take care of itself.”

While the Kingsmen are looking to improve defensively, their offense had no shortage of skill. Junior attacker George Lundgren played a key offensive role during the scrimmage, putting away four goals.

“I’m going to try to fill more of a leadership role this year,”  Lundgren said. “After two years in the program, I feel like I know the system pretty well that we run here, so I’m just going to try to help the newcomers fill into their roles and be productive for the team.”

With 15 newcomers, the Kingsmen have one of the biggest first-year classes in the program’s history. The team will adapt to playing with a younger group, while still relying on its core upperclassmen players.

“The main thing I’ve already learned from being here is just learning your role,” said first-year Dillon Goldsmith. “Even if you’re on the bench for the whole game and you get one minute in the pool, you play that as best as you can because that’s the role that coach gives you. We got a really good group of guys out here and a great atmosphere, so I’m stoked to even get minutes in the pool.”

The Kingsmen finished sixth in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference the past two years, with Pomona-Pitzer reigning as the two-year SCIAC champion. This year, new rule changes and new talent could help this young team seize a SCIAC championship.

“Our goal is to be top four and make it to the SCIAC tournament,”  Hightower said. “We want to be close as a team in and out of the water and when we’re playing together as a team, there’s no reason that we can’t make it to SCIAC.”

Scott Roberts