Water polo registers a strong showing at Amherst club tourney

Making good on its bid to rebound from tough losses at Harvard last weekend, men’s water polo made a strong showing at the Amherst club team tournament Saturday and Sunday.

Williams beat Boston College, Tufts and Amherst, but lost to Middlebury by four goals in overtime. Will Cunningham ’06 scored an impressive 22 goals total on the tournament. Dickie Lammert ’03 was the second highest scorer for the Ephmen with 12 goals.

The tournament began with a game against the former varsity-level team from Boston College. By halftime the score was notched at 7-7, but the second half saw the Ephs out-swim and out-shoot the Eagles.

“We were able to swim them up and down the pool until they had nothing left at either end,” Head Coach Jon Wiener said.

It was truly a team victory. Lammert had a total of 11 steals. Cunningham was the top scorer with six goals. Goalie Kam Shahid ’04 made several crucial blocks in the fourth quarter to help seal the Eph victory at 13-11.

The second and final game on Saturday was against Middlebury, one of the strongest contenders for the title of New England Division champion. Middlebury was a man down due to a broken foot, and Williams took an early 3-0 lead.

But the 16 foul ejections during the game severely set the Ephs back in terms of defensive power. Middlebury scored three goals during the last minute and a half of the third quarter to cut the Williams lead from 13-9 to 13-12. Middlebury took the lead in the fourth, but with 32 seconds left, Nate Krissoff ’03 scored to tie it up and send the game into overtime.

Williams gave up five goals during the two three-minute overtime periods, however, and Middlebury took the game 16-20.

Wiener attributed the loss, in part, to the number of ejections: Lammert, Fulton Breen ’03 and Dave Arnolds ’04 all received three fouls during the second half, and were benched for the rest of the game.

“We didn’t have enough depth after losing two starters and our top sub,” Wiener said. “We just didn’t have the firepower to win.”

This is Williams’ first lost to Middlebury in four years. But Wiener doesn’t plan to make a habit of it. The Ephs will face off against them in two weeks, this time with two referees (only one showed up for Saturday game), which should help cut down the number of ejections. The tournament will also be in a regulation size pool; Amherst’s pool is 33 percent smaller than normal.

While losing to Middlebury does not set back Williams in the seedings, it does put pressure on the Ephs to beat them in the New England Division regional qualifying tournament on Oct. 12.

Wiener has not lost confidence in his team or in its ability to be champs of New England, but he recognizes the areas the team will need to work on during the coming weeks.

“Middlebury showed us they’re not going to roll over and let us and Dartmouth fight it out for the top seed going into Championships,” Wiener said. “But with better control of the ball and a smaller number of ejections, we should be able to handle them.”

In Sunday’s showdown with Tufts, it quickly became apparent that the opposition could not keep up with the speed of Williams. The Ephs shut-out Tufts during the second half and secured the 14-4 win. Lammert and Cunningham had four goals, while Krissoff and Jonathan “Gunner” Loveless ’05 both scored two.

The last game of the tournament was against Amherst. Once again, Williams jumped to an early lead and was ahead 7-4 by halftime.

“We did a much better job of spacing out and controlling the ball in the frontcourt,” Wiener said. “That allowed us to drive without causing a traffic jam.”

Spreading out paid off for the Ephmen as Williams came away with a 14-9 victory over the Jeffs.

Cunningham was the top scorer again with four goals. Krissoff and Loveless had three. Arnolds made two while Lammert and Fulton Breen ’03 chipped in with one goal apiece.

Despite the imperfect performance this weekend, Wiener is still sure that his team can achieve the goal of winning New England Championships.

“Our loss to Middlebury and our close shave with Boston College proved that our region is stronger than ever, and we will have to play well every game from now on,” Wiener said. “But we still showed this weekend that if we play a controlled game for four quarters, we can easily handle anybody in the region.”

For Wiener and the Ephmen, it seems falling short of their goals is not an option.