CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's water polo team was picked to finish third in the SCIAC in a preseason poll of the conference's coaches, the league announced today, finishing just one point out of the second-place position.
The Stags finished fourth last year, and enter the new season optimistic that they can make a run up the conference standings. They will try to achieve that despite a young roster that features only one senior (attacker Matt Daruty CMC '19), and seven freshmen, who bring an infusion of talent to support a solid core of returners.
The tournaments that the Stags participate in over the first two weeks in September will be especially important as they have a lot of matches to try to build some new chemistry. CMS will play a pair of exhibitions against Riverside College and Long Beach City College on Saturday, and then head to Redlands for the Inland Empire Tournament, where they will face Concordia and USC, the preseason No. 2 team in the country.
"For us, the early season matches are a chance to find chemistry within the group," said Head Coach Greg Lonzo. "With all of our freshmen and incoming players, we have a lot of integration to do and we have to find the groups that work well together."
Leading the way this season will be first-team All-SCIAC returner Zack Rossman (CMC '20), who had 55 goals and 18 assists a year ago. The 55 goals ranked him eighth in the SCIAC and second on the team, just two behind graduated teammate Noah Deer.
Rossman is one of only four juniors on the team, as 15 of the 20 players on the roster are freshmen and sophomores. The other juniors who will be asked to handle leadership responsibilities include attacker Harrison Miller (CMC '20), utility Charlie Thomson (CMC '20), and Ethan Lewis (CMC '20), who ranked fifth in the SCIAC in saves in conference matches (102) at the goalie position last year but will move back to a defensive role this fall.
The Stags get their depth from their sophomore class, which will be asked to play like seasoned veterans this year due to the lack of upperclassmen. The center position will be manned by a pair of sophomores in Sean Pine (CMC '21) and CJ Box (CMC '21), who will look to build off the playing time they earned last year in their rookie campaigns.
The Stags also have several sophomores returning to their attacking roles, including Robert Driscoll (CMC '21), Nick Britt (CMC '21), Koss Klobucher (CMC '21) and Barron Banta (CMC '21), who will all be looking to step up to supplement Rossman in the scoring department. Britt showed strong potential last year, including a hat trick in a SCIAC win over Occidental. Christian Thornton (CMC '21) earned immediate playing time last year as a utility player, and Eric Weiner (HMC '21) will move into a defensive role this fall.
Pomona-Pitzer was a unanimous selection for the top spot in the poll with 81 points, followed by Whittier with 65, and the Stags one point behind with 64. There was then a big dropoff to the fourth-place position, held by Champman with 49 points. Redlands (44), Cal Lutheran (40), La Verne (35), Occidental (14) and Caltech (13) rounded out the poll.
Despite a young roster, Lonzo feels confident that he has a squad that can compete for a SCIAC title this fall while building a nucleus that can have an extended run as one of the top teams in the league.
"I really like our athleticism," he said. "I think we have 18 field players who are all really competitive, and it's just a matter of finding who plays well together and gives us the best chance to win games."