Water polo walks the walk in Little Three tournament play

The past two weekends have been action-packed for men’s water polo, with the competition heating up as the New England Championships quickly approach. Williams, however, has become a strong contender for the championship title to be determined next weekend. The Ephs dominated the Little Three Tournament at Amherst on Friday, beating both Wesleyan and the Amherst by substantial margins.

By halftime of the first game, Williams was beating the Cardinals 15-3. The second half saw the Ephmen pulling ahead even further to secure the win, which finished up at 25-10.

Will Cunningham ’06 and Fulton Breen ’03 were the top scorers, with five goals each. Dickie Lammert ’03 contributed four goals, while Jonathan “Gunner” Loveless ’05 added three.

Amherst was up next for the Ephs, and it was clear that they were made of sterner stuff than Wesleyan.

Cunningham scored three of the first four goals to establish an early 4-1 lead, but the Lord Jeffs managed to battle back before halftime, tying up the game 5-5 at the intermission.

Williams was able to swim against the current of momentum, and came out of the gate hard in the second period, scoring the first three goals. Amherst, though, fought back and managed to score two goals in a row, closing the Ephs’ lead from 8-5 to 8-7.

Still, Williams was not deterred – Lammert proceeded to lead the team with an impressive five goal solo run, putting the game out of reach for the Jeffs, who had no answer for this offensive onslaught. The game finished at 15-8 in favor of the Ephmen.

Last weekend, Williams emerged with two wins and two losses at the tournament hosted by Middlebury. The Ephs faced off against Amherst first, shutting them out 8-0 by halftime. During the third quarter, Kam Shahid ’04 – the Williams goalie – scored his first college goal on a gimmick play. Starting on the far side of the pool, he swam 20 meters under water and popped up right in front of the cage. Brian Carey ’06 hit him with a pass and Shahid put it away. Also scoring their first goals of the year were Carey and Chris Kelley ’03. Nate Krissoff ’03 led the Ephs with three goals on the contest, while Loveless and Cunningham each made two.

Next up was the much anticipated game against Middlebury, who upset Williams at the Amherst club tournament last month. This time, the Ephmen were very much up to the challenge, winning out over the Panthers 13-6. Cunningham was the leading scorer with six goals, as Lammert and Loveless chipped in with three and two goals, respectively.

“This was our best game of the season,” said Coach Jon Wiener. “From ball-handling to shooting to communication to counterattacks to defense, we fixed the mistakes we made last time.”

The third game of the tournament was against Dartmouth, a team Wiener considers the Ephs’ biggest rival for the New England Championship title. Williams did not manage to secure the win, though, losing 12-6 to the Ivy League squad.

Nonetheless, Loveless played an outstanding game, leading the team with three goals and an equal number of blocks. Shahid also made an impressive showing in goal, blocking nine shots.

After the game, Wiener attributed the 12-6 loss to fatigue and lack of intensity, but had nothing but praise for Loveless. “Had we played against them the same way we played against Middlebury, we would have had no problem winning,” he said. “It was probably the best game of [Loveless’] career, though. He performed at a high level all through the tournament, and in this game, he not only put us up 2-1 at the beginning by matching up with a weaker defender, but he was helping back on defense as well.”

The final game was against former varsity team Boston College. Williams kept the score close the whole game, but the Eagles edged the Ephs out to win 8-6.

The Ephs were up 6-5 in the fourth quarter until BC tied it up on a gimmick play, and then scored again while Williams was down a man due to a penalty kick-out. The final goal for the opposition came off a penalty shot that Shahid nearly blocked.

True to form, Wiener was critical of his team’s play, searching for areas of improvement while not losing confidence in his team’s abilities. “Boston College is a talented team,” he said. “I think we should be proud of how we played, especially how we rebounded from the loss to Middlebury the night before.

“We played decent defense and created plenty of opportunities. We just didn’t finish them.”

Williams is seeded fifth going into New England Championships after the Middlebury tournament. Boston College is seeded first, followed by UMass, Dartmouth and Yale. Nevertheless, Wiener and his team seem to be confident in their role as the underdog. His agenda is ambitious for the championship tournament – “Our plan is to pull off three upsets on three consecutive days. It’s going to be difficult for sure, but no one is scared.”