Beavers Start Slowly, Finish Strongly at Inland Empire Classic

Beavers Start Slowly, Finish Strongly at Inland Empire Classic

Southern Calif. - This past weekend, Caltech Men's Water Polo opened its season at the Inland Empire Classic in La Verne and Redlands, where the team dropped all four games. Conference rivals La Verne, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, and Redlands all proved to be too much for the Beavers to handle, though Sunday's late game versus Vanguard University saw a glimpse of what should prove to be a much improved attack as the Techers found the net 10 times in defeat.

Both morning games saw the Beavers fall behind early. La Verne, eager to show off its revamped roster, struck early and often Saturday morning at Las Flores Park, spoiling goalie Thomas Heavey's debut between the pipes. Between his questionable facial hair and laser arm, he certainly looked the part, but the Leos counter-attack proved to be deadly all game long a Caltech fell 20-5. On Sunday, Redlands showed that they are still the class of the SCIAC, using its speed and depth to make Sunday morning just as miserable for the Beavers. The offense never truly got going, and a lone strike each from juniors vice-captain Adam Khan and center Daniel Sexton kept the Bulldogs from their shutout that few could say was undeserved. The Beavers play Redlands again in Braun Pool, and will certainly be hoping to improve upon the 21-2 drubbing.

The afternoons showed much more promise for the Beavers. Sophomore Tim MacDonald threw his red hat into the ring for the full-time goalie position with a pair of starts, and his long arms and calm demeanor certainly helped the Beavers on D. The offense seemed to click much better after lunch also, which helped to slow the onslaught of counters. It took until after halftime for SCIAC favorite C-M-S to pull away, which is certainly a promising sign. Four different Beavers found the net, including both centers.

"To see Dan and Jack work off each other really gives us an extra dimension on offense," said senior skipper Ryan Newton. "You know good things will happen when we get them the ball, so we can start thinking defense."

It was this center-position effectiveness that again carried Caltech on offense Sunday. The pair combined for seven exclusions drawn (the team was 7/9 on extra man opportunities for the game) and six of the team's goals in a 21-10 loss to Vanguard. Josh Hardenbrook also scored a goal, his first in almost two years, while Heavey showed his mettle in the field, adding a pair of scores to go along with his first assist of the young season.

All in all, it was a solid first showing for the Beavers. Their depth and speed are suspect, which will cause problems down the road, but the effort and experience are both up from a year ago. The team was also given a boost last week when word came down that senior Paul Fleiner, who is working to return from shoulder surgery, should be fit in less than one month to add his talents to the Beaver attack. Jack Blackwood, the SCIAC's leading returner in goals and exclusions drawn, started backup right where he left off a season ago. Blackwood scored 8 times and drew 11 exclusions on the weekend while Sexton finished with 7 goals and 5 exclusions drawn.

The Beavers next match comes up on Saturday as they venture down to Orange to take on the Chapman University Panthers.