By ZACH JAFFE
The Hopkins men’s water polo team traveled to California to take on a series of talented opponents. The Blue Jays took on California Institute of Technology (CalTech), Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, University of Redlands, University of La Verne, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The packed four-day ordeal culminated with back-to-back doubleheaders and was completed with the Jays collecting three wins and three losses.
The Jays opened up with a 20-5 trouncing of the host Beavers of CalTech. Thirteen different players scored for the Jays in what would be a blowout from the start. Hopkins started out on a 5-1 run and would not look back.
They outscored the Beavers 8-0 in the third period and were able to get every healthy player into the game.
Junior Giovanni Cragnotti led all scorers with five points while freshman Josh Kurtz, sophomore Connor Johnson and junior Bret Pinsker added four points apiece.
Next, the Jays took on the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens and were given a tough battle. Despite being down 6-2 at halftime, the Jays battled back to make it a one-goal game with just under three minutes left.
The Sagehens, however, struck again to double the lead once more before a goal from senior Langdon Froomer with 10 seconds remaining brought the lead back down to one. It was too little too late, as the Jays fell 10-9. The senior, Froomer, would lead the Jays in goals with three. Senior and co-captain Kevin Yee,who would add on an assist, commended the team after the loss.
“I was proud of the amount of heart, fight and perseverance we showed,” Yee said. “We battled.”
Against the University of Redlands, the Jays were outplayed from start to finish. Following the loss to Pomona-Pitzer the day before, the Jays looked out of gas early on as the Bulldogs jumped to a quick 5-2 halftime lead. They buried the Blue Jays with stifling defense and efficient offense to take the match by a score of 10-5. Freshman Giorgio Cico led the Jays scorers with three points and ten shots.
In the second match of the doubleheader, the Jays sought to snap their two-game losing streak against the University of La Verne Leopards. Early on, the Leopards controlled the pace of the game and looked well on their way to handing the Blue Jays a third consecutive loss. After trailing 4-2 at halftime, the Jays turned it up.
They cut the lead to one with 40 seconds remaining before a Froomer goal tied the game. Then, with 10 seconds remaining, sophomore Jono Gillette buried the game winner. The game finished at 9-8 and stopped the first losing streak of the season at two. Yee led all goal scorers with three and Cico finished with five assists. Senior Erik Henrikson and sophomore John Wilson combined for 14 saves.
In the semifinals of the round-robin tournament, the Blue Jays took on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags in what would be a highly contested bout from the start. The teams were tied at six going into the half, but the Stags took a three-goal lead and entered the fourth ahead 10-7.
Cico and freshman Andreas Katsis tacked on goals to make it 10-9 with 6:24 remaining in the game, but the Stags defense would hold off and be the difference in a 11-9 Hopkins defeat and elimination from the D-III round-robin championship. The Jays managed to save face in the third place game, defeating the MIT Engineers for a third place finish in the championship. Cico had five assists and Froomer had four goals to pace the Jays.
“We had hopes of a more successful trip to California in terms of wins and losses,” Yee said. “[But] team morale is high right now.”
Hopkins entered the tournament ranked second in the D-III poll and No. 17 in the overall Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) poll. Their overall ranking is sure to drop when the new poll is released, but the D-III ranking should see them staying in the top three.
“[During the California trip] we learned a lot about ourselves,” Yee said. “We are ahead of where we have been in years past.”
The Blue Jays will return to action on Oct. 7 at home against the Navy Midshipmen.