The University of Redlands men's water polo program once again confirmed that it is one of the premier NCAA Division III teams around the nation with another solid campaign during the 2011 season. The Bulldogs recorded a 15-plus win season for the 15th consecutive year while also notching seven or more Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) victories. Overall, Redlands finished with a 17-20 overall mark against opponents from all levels, to go along with a 7-3 SCIAC performance for third place.
As per Head Coach Tom Whittemore's standard procedure, the Bulldogs faced stiff non-conference competition to open up the season, beginning with the UCSD Triton Invitational and the UC Irvine Invitational. The highlight of the early tournaments came in the form of an 8-7 victory over NAIA opponent Fresno Pacific University. Senior center Blake vanHartesvelt (Mercer Island, WA) and senior driver Jeff Parsons (Newark, CA) led the UR attack by accounting for five netters. The goalkeeper combination of sophomore Tyler Abbott (Alta Loma, CA) and senior Jessie Gunther (Perris, CA) recorded 12 total saves en route to the squad's hard-fought win.
The Maroon and Gray gained momentum at the annual Inland Empire Classic, which was held at the Thompson Aquatic Center. Redlands collected its first home win of the season with a blowout victory over the Beavers of Caltech in non-conference action. The squad also tallied an exciting win against Vanguard University. While taking on the Beavers, 11 different players collected at least one netter, highlighted by eight Bulldogs with a multi-goal performance. Freshman center Tommy Hartwig (Vista, CA) headlined the outing with a career-high and season-best six scores. The Vanguard match featured vanHartesvelt and Parsons, along with senior driver Cabott Ferrill (Poway, CA), who combined for more than half of the squad's goals.
Redlands split its next two events against East Coast opponents, taking down MIT but falling to the US Naval Academy. The Maroon and Gray prevailed over the Division III rival by a score of 12-7 during the second contest of a neutral-site doubleheader. Three different Bulldogs collected more than one goal, with senior driver Danny Boessenecker (Clayton, CA) and senior driver Shane Anderson (Riverside, CA) posting three scores apiece.
At the Claremont Convergence, the Bulldogs nabbed two more inspiring victories when they defeated George Washington University (DC) and Johns Hopkins University (MD) in a pair of critical DIII matches. Junior driver Patrick Roth (Cottonwood Heights, UT) contributed a hat trick against the Colonels, while Abbott stepped up with 11 saves against the Blue Jays.
During the late half of October, the Bulldogs enjoyed a hot streak, winning five straight as well as six out of seven. The streak included the team's first five SCIAC showdowns on top of non-conference wins over Gannon University (PA) and regional competitor Chapman University. Redlands ripped off double-digit goal totals in four out of the six victories.
Wrapping up regular-season conference play, the team celebrated the contributions of Anderson, Boessenecker, Ferrill, Parsons and vanHartesvelt in the seniors' final competition at the Thompson Aquatic Center on Nov. 5. Parsons led the Bulldog charge by nabbing four netters en route to a 22-8 win over Caltech.
The Bulldogs entered the SCIAC Championship Tournament as the event's No. 3 seed, facing the Tigers of Occidental College in the first round. After enduring an early deficit, the Maroon and Gray battled back behind Freeman's four-goal showing to finish off Oxy by a score of 13-8.
In a hard-fought battle, Redlands fell in the semifinal round to Pomona-Pitzer Colleges, 9-11, before clinching a 9-7 victory in the third-place contest over Cal Lutheran University. Squaring up with the Kingsmen, Parsons once again led the Bulldogs with a hat trick, while Abbott patrolled the cage by stopping 10 shots.
Following their regular-season accomplishments, the Bulldogs advanced to the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Championships for the 14th consecutive year. The club pumped out its lone victory of the tournament against Chapman, ousting the Panthers for the third time in 2011. Parsons headlined the Maroon and Gray's weekend by notching All-WWPA Second-Team honors. The driver collected three goals throughout the tournament, including a multi-goal effort against the Air Force Academy on Saturday.
After the conclusion of the conference season, three members of the crew collected All-SCIAC accolades for their performances during the team's third-place showing. VanHartesvelt landed on the First Team, while Freeman and Parsons grabbed their inaugural All-Conference awards with spots on the Second Team.
Despite the loss of a talented senior corps, the Bulldogs look forward to the steady play of their rising returnees. Under the direction of Whittemore, Redlands men's water polo sits poised for continued success within DIII and beyond.