Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool, home of the Pepperdine Men’s Water Polo team, sits empty before the game on Oct. 22. Two more games will be played here before the end of the season. Photo by Caitlyn Garcia
No. 9 Pepperdine Men’s Water Polo lost to No. 5 University of Southern California with a score of 13-11 on Oct. 22 at Raleigh Runnels Memorial Pool. This loss puts the Waves at 12-11 on the season, and now the team will only play teams from the Golden Coast Conference for the remainder of the season.
Both offenses came out firing as the first period ended with a score of 6-5.
USC got the ball first and USC senior driver Jake Ehrhardt scored the first goal of the game. The Waves responded quickly as graduate attacker Dennis Blyashov scored with freshman attacker Adam Csapo scoring soon after. Both Csapo and Blyashov were in the top five in points in the Golden Coast Conference heading into the game.
“We have a lot of fire power,” Head Coach Terry Schroeder said. “Those guys are all great shooters.”
Despite the strong start from both offenses, each team’s defense tightened after the first period. Both USC and Pepperdine only scored twice and there was a five minute period where neither team scored. Walsh and junior attacker Christian Hosea scored Pepperdine’s goals this period.
“It became a defensive game and our goalies started playing better,” Csapo said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing because we can only win if our defense is doing good. We’re not trying to outscore teams, we’re trying to beat them with our defense.”
Pepperdine battled the Trojans closely for the remainder of the game. Once again, both teams went over five minutes without scoring during the third period, but USC scored twice while senior center Austin Smit scored Pepperdine’s only goal with 1:46 left on the clock. Each team scored three times in the final quarter, so USC pulled away with the win.
“Our offense stalled a little bit,” Schroeder said. “They put a little bit more pressure on us and we didn’t respond as well as we should have. We stopped moving on the one-two side and we didn’t get the opportunities we had early on in the game.”
Pepperdine lost the sprint in three of the four quarters, which led to USC starting off with the ball in these quarters. Freshman goalie Zach Cwiertnia said he believed USC was able to build momentum by winning the sprints.
“It’s their first possession of the quarter,” Cwiertnia said. “If they score first, then you have to come back and play offense, and if you miss, you have defense again. It’s not really a fun thing to have when losing sprints.”
After not playing in the first period, Cwiertnia entered at the start of the second period, remained in for the rest of the game and had seven saves.
For the offense, Walsh had his first two goal games of the season while Csapo and Blyashov each had two goals. Redshirt senior attacker Curtis Jarvis, who led the Golden Coast Conference in assists heading into the game, added two more— boosting his total to 37.
“When it comes to assists, you’re looking for other people before yourself,” Cwiertnia said. “He always does that and it means a lot.”
The end of the men’s water polo season is soon, as the Men’s Water Polo has its last three games on Oct. 30, Nov. 5 and Nov. 12.
“All year we’ve been improving,” Csapo said. “We’re going up right now. Even though we lost today, I think we can take some positive things out of it and head into our conference games with good confidence.”
Csapo said his high confidence in the team comes from how much they have improved over the course of the season.
“We’re getting better as a team, of course,” Csapo said. “We’re figuring out who’s good when and we’re starting to know each other. We’re improving on six on fives which was a really weak point in the beginning of the year and on defense.”
Cwiertnia said he believes the team needs to play better in the first period and prevent the opposing team’s best players from shooting.
“First quarter we have to come out stronger,” Cwiertnia said. “Shooters are going to shoot and we have to prevent the people we don’t want to shoot.”
Schroeder said he isn’t too worried looking at the schedule ahead leading into the conference tournament.
“We just take it one game at a time,” Schroeder said. “We got a week to prepare for each team now as we go into the last month of the season before our conference tournament, so we’re going to be as well prepared as we can be and hopefully our defense will carry us through.”
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