Kingsmen water polo triumphs over Tigers

Senior center defender Justin English was among the three seniors celebrated on senior day on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Kingsmen came out with an 11-9 victory over Occidental.  Photo by Arianna Macaluso - Photo Editor
Senior center defender Justin English was among the three seniors celebrated on senior day on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Kingsmen came out with an 11-9 victory over Occidental.
Photo by Arianna Macaluso – Photo Editor

“It’s bittersweet…It’s weird,” said senior center defender Jack Kirby after playing in his senior day game.

The California Lutheran University men’s water polo team pulled out an 11-9 win over the Occidental Tigers on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Kingsmen recognized senior center defender Justin English, utility player Matt Fong, Kirby and their families before the game.

Head Coach Craig Rond said he was proud of the team for pulling off the win and recognized the three seniors for their dedication to the program during their years at Cal Lutheran.

“I thought it was great to see those guys go out and compete and to see them get a win on their senior day. It’s always a special day,” Rond said. 

Leading the Kingsmen on offense, Fong tallied a hat trick.

“It felt great to go out with a win on senior day, but we still have one more game left. But just to be honored on this day and to get a win is awesome,” Fong said.

The Kingsmen got off to a quick start with the first point of the game just seconds in. Sophomore center Wyatt Lowe found the back of the net coming off an assist from Kirby. Occidental was right back in the game, scoring two goals of their own.

Fong made a scoring attempt after Cal Lutheran swung their offense, burying the ball in the back of the net off an assist from first-year attacker Ben Brown. Fong then added an assist of his own, passing the ball to junior attacker Tanner Kaplan, who was able to push through two defenders to send a skip shot over the keeper’s head.

After the Tigers scored another goal, the Kingsmen came back and attacked off a power play. First-year utility player Dillon Goldsmith drew the ejection and sent a skip shot under the keeper’s arm off an assist from Brown. Swinging the offense once more, first-year attacker Kyle Crist sent a ball from the perimeter right past the keeper, putting the score at 5-3 going into the second quarter.

Cal Lutheran got off to another quick start in the second quarter when Fong sent a ball into the back-right side of the net while breaking through a double team with his head under the water, allowing him to ricochet the ball off the top of the goalkeeper’s head.

Brown then used a shot block on goal to his advantage, finding a counter-attack goal for the Kingsmen.

Occidental began to gain some of their momentum back, sending three unanswered goals past Cal Lutheran’s sophomore goalkeeper Andre Rivas. Goldsmith pulled out another goal for the Kingsmen, putting the score at 8-6 at the half.

Trying to claw their way back to tie the game, the Tigers came out fighting and sent a skip shot right under Rivas’ arm. They came back again with 2:49 left in the third quarter with a ball sailing into the right side of the net, tying up the game 8-8.

With just 30 seconds remaining in the quarter, first-year attacker Taylor Garcia came off an assist from Brown to bury a high right perimeter shot into the back of the net.

Heading into the fourth quarter with the Kingsmen up only one goal, Kirby drew an ejection, giving Fong the power play to send a ball off a right post shot off an assist from junior attacker Hans Cole during their six-on-five man offense.

A few turnovers allowed Oxy’s keeper to send a deep pass up the pool, leading the Tigers to score another goal.

With time ticking away, Brown took a shot from seven meters deep, sailing the ball from the top right perimeter into the back of the goal, giving the Kingsmen the two point lead (11-9). With Cal Lutheran in control of the game, Occidental looked to make scoring opportunities, but were unsuccessful. The Kingsmen went home with another win against the Tigers.

Cal Lutheran will play their final home game of the season on Wednesday, Nov. 7  at 4 p.m. against Chapman University in hopes of securing a place in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) post-season tournament.

“We’re still in the SCIAC race, so if we get a win on Wednesday then we will probably go into a tie breaker and hopefully we take our energy we got from a two-game winning streak into post season and maybe win a SCIAC Championship,” Fong said.

Both Kirby and Fong said they were proud of their time in the program and hope their team will perform well on Wednesday to beat Chapman.

“I think it’s funny to see it all come full circle, you know. We’ve dedicated our entire lives to this one sport—blood, sweat and tears, literally into this game—so it’s just so amazing to see it all come together and culminate into this last day,” Kirby said.

Alexa Barnes