Going into this past weekend’s Princeton Invitational, Water Polo head coach Bill Harris knew the tournament was not going to be easy.
“It’s kind of tough love, you play better teams, hopefully you will learn something from that and improve,” Harris said.
Three teams ranked in the top twenty in the nation awaited the Rams, and although they did not leave with any victories, their coach’s message rang true.
Play began on Saturday against No. 17 Cal Baptist. The Rams quickly fell behind 5-2 at the end of the first. Cal’s defense smothered Fordham for the next two quarters, allowing only two goals to extend its lead to 12-4 at the end of the third. The Rams outscored Cal 3-2 in the final frame, but it was not enough to prevent the 14-7 rout.
Freshman Jake Miller-Tot led the way with four scores and an assist. He was joined in the scoring column by junior Cameron Shewchuck with two goals and sophomore Magnus Sims with one goal and three steals.
The next morning’s matchup was with the Santa Clara Broncos. The 20th-ranked team in the country, they presented the Rams with their best chance to pick up a victory. They came within two markers of doing just that, with the Broncos barely skating by 10-8.
Fordham stayed step-for-step with Santa Clara, with coach Harris calling the match his team’s “best performance to date.” The score was 2-1 in favor of the Rams at the end of the first frame, before the Broncos tied the halftime score at three. They each netted four apiece in the third to set up a 7-7 showdown in the fourth. But, it was there that Santa Clara’s depth and experience shined through, outscoring the Rams 3-1 in the quarter, and pulling away for the win.
“We missed a penalty shot and had a few man-ups that we didn’t convert on. We didn’t capitalize on those opportunities and if you don’t do that in water polo you’re most likely not going to come out on top,” said Harris.
Miller-Tot continued an excellent weekend, filling up the scorecard with three goals, two assists and four steals against the Broncos. Senior captain R.J. Simmons added a pair and two steals.
Coach Harris highlighted Simmons’ importance as a leader. “Even if he’s not scoring, he brings his maturity and leadership to the team,” he said. “He’s helping us a great deal during practice. He gets it, he gets that his defense, his assists and his patience will really rub off on the freshman and sophomores.”
The final match of the tournament was the most difficult, an afternoon date with the 12th-ranked Harvard Crimson. The Rams put in a lethargic performance, getting blown out 15-4.
“They caught us coming off Santa Clara, which we put in a lot of energy and it was an intense game, so it was tough to come back, but Harvard is a very good team,” said Harris.
Miller-Tot scored yet again and added three steals. Coach Harris was not at all surprised at the young player’s performance over the weekend and expects more of the same from him this year.
“I anticipated he would be a real help to us, even as a freshman,” Harris said. “He came from a strong program in high school, he was a high school All-American. He’s just a workhorse and he’s talented. It’ll be fun to watch him develop.”
Shewchuck and freshman Tristen Knoflick each had a goal and a steal apiece. And sophomore J.J. Meador had the final tally.
The three losses drop the Rams to a game under 500 at 3-4. The team will take this weekend off before returning to action on Sept. 24th, when it will begin conference play against Johns Hopkins at 3:30 p.m. and George Washington at 8 p.m.