Girls water polo team prepares for CIF
The steady rain and cold didn’t slow down Claremont Wolfpack girls water polo as they skated to a 15-6 victory over Ayala on Tuesday at CHS.
Even though fans huddled under shared umbrellas, the foul weather could not dampen spirits as the home team dominated from the very start, resulting in plenty of cheering for the home team.
The win advances Claremont’s Palomares League record to 6-0. Barring any upsets, they should remain undefeated straight through the opening game of the CIF tournament next month.
Glendora gave Claremont a bit of a scare when the two teams met last month, according to Coach Gary Cheever. But the girls rose to the challenge and the final score was another Claremont blowout at 23-12.
“So far league has been good. The one game that was a little difficult for us was Glendora, they came out a little stronger than we expected and we had to make some adjustments,” Coach Cheever said.
Outside of league play Claremont has faced tougher competition, resulting in an 11-10 loss to Segerstrom and a 14-6 loss to Redondo Union in the Lady Brahmas Winter Classic over the weekend.
Even during the disappointing game against Segerstrom, the girls rallied. Starting the second half with a 9-2 deficit, the Pack only allowed two more goals while scoring eight, almost throwing the match into overtime.
“After our weekend we will be practicing for every game now,” Coach Cheever said. “We had a rough weekend with low energy and we lost to our number two [CIF Division 3] ranked team, and that dropped us from number three to number seven.”
On Tuesday against Ayala, Claremont’s two top scorers had a combined nine goals, with six for Helena Sandhagen and three for Maddie Waasdorp.
Coach Cheever added the January tournament to simulate the level of competition the girls will see in the playoffs. In addition, tournament games provide a chance for the coach to give more playing time to girls outside the starting line up, which adds experienced depth for the playoffs.
One potential challenge for the team moving forward is the bench is a tad shallow for a championship team. This means Coach Cheever has to choose very carefully when to play his stars to better control fatigue. “We are three deep [on the bench] I would prefer five or six, but three is fine,” he said.
Asked if the lack of depth could be a problem in the playoffs, Coach Cheever acknowledged there may be some risk, but it’s not a major concern.
“It’s a possibility, but we have upped our strength training and that will help with that situation. We’re back in D3 and we are looking to make a run. The last two seasons we made it to the semis in two different divisions, and we are hoping to get to the finals this year,” he said.
The Pack’s overall record was not available at press time. They will be in another tournament over the weekend, and will be back at league play on Tuesday with an away game against Glendora.
The Wolfpack won its fifth Palomares League game on Wednesday, defeating the Ayala Bulldogs, 3-1, in Chino Hills. Senior Janelle Gutierrez got all three of the Pack’s goals with assists from freshman Riley Zitar and senior Morgan Hughes.
Last Friday Claremont blanked the Bonita Bearcats, 2-0, in La Verne. Seniors Tyler Higuera and Gutierrez each had a goal, while freshman Sarah Mahfoud had an assist.
With the wins Claremont, 5-0 in league and 14-1-3 overall, is now in first place followed by Glendora, 4-1, and Alta Loma, 3-2. The girls have a home game against Alta Loma on Friday.
Claremont Coach Stan Tolliver told the COURIER last week he was looking forward to the remaining Palomares League matches, even with the Pack’s recent losses. And the team certainly proved him right with a decisive 50-36 win over Bonita on Friday, followed by a 75-68 victory over Ayala on Tuesday.
Against Ayala seniors Zak Lounis and Matthew Dirckx had stellar games with a combined 46 points. Lounis tacked on 12 rebounds followed by sophomore Sebastian DePrez with 10. Claremont continues to be spot on from the free throw line, but shot less than 50 percent from three-point range.
In the Bonita game the Pack came out slow and were actually down by five points after one quarter, but turned the momentum around, outscoring the Bearcats the rest of the game.
Lounis was the top scorer with 20 points, followed by DePrez with 12, junior Joshua Chen with seven and senior Dirckx with six. DePrez led on rebounds with 12, followed by Lounis with 11.
Turnovers sank Claremont last week, but they had a much better record on Tuesday, giving up the ball just eight times.
With the pair of wins Claremont, Bonita and Glendora are tied for second place in league with 3-2 records. Colony remains undefeated at 5-0. Claremont will host Alta Loma on Friday.
Claremont is in fourth place in the Palomares League after they narrowly defeated Ayala, 69-65 on Tuesday in Chino Hills. Claremont now stands at 2-3 in league, putting them just behind Colony since the Titans defeated the Pack last week.
The girls suffered a disappointing loss last Friday as the Bonita Bearcats easily handled the Pack, 60-34, in La Verne. Bonita got an early lead and never looked back, leading by 14 points after the first quarter, 19 at the half, 21 after three and 26 at the final buzzer.