CMS Men’s Water Polo Lets Late Lead Slip Away, Falls at No. 1 Whittier, 12-9

Senior Zack Rossman scored two goals as the Stags fall to the Poets 12-9 on Wednesday night at Whittier.
Senior Zack Rossman scored two goals as the Stags fall to the Poets 12-9 on Wednesday night at Whittier.

WHITTIER, Calif. -- The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Men's Water Polo team led 9-6 in the third quarter but the No. 1 Whittier Poets scored six straight goals to come back and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat 12-9 on Wednesday night at Slade Aquatics Center in Whittier, California.

The Stags fall to 5-6 overall and 2-1 in the SCIAC with the loss to the DIII National No. 1 team, Whittier Poets, who move to 6-7 overall and 3-0 in the conference after vanquishing the top two teams in the conference preseason and DIII National poll in the last week. The Poets took down the preseason favorite to win the conference and previous DIII No. 1 team, Pomona-Pitzer, 9-3 last Wednesday and sit atop the conference, joined by Chapman (2-0) as the only remaining undefeated teams in SCIAC play. 

CMS got off to a good start scoring two goals less than two minutes apart in the first quarter. CJ Box tallied an unassisted goal at 6:38 into the first frame and Zack Rossman followed with his first of two goals in the game at the 4:41 mark of the first stanza to put the Stags in front 2-0. 

Whittier responded just 22 seconds later at 4:19 with an even-strength goal by Maxwell Murphy off an assist by Dominick Nevarez. Murphy scored his second goal of the game at 3:33 an unassisted even-strength tally to tie the game 2-2 over midway through the first quarter. Will Clark evened the game at 3-3 with his goal at 6:28 in the second quarter. 

The Poets would grab momentum going into the first quarter break after Ricardo Reyes Jr. found the back of the net off an assist by Murat Ersoz to put Whittier in front 4-3 through eight minutes of play. Ethan Lewis pulled the Stags 4-4 with a tally of the unassisted variety at 4:53 in the second quarter. Nick Britt followed with an unassisted goal of his own at the 3:19 mark to put the Stags back in front 5-4. 

Whittier bounced back to tie the game in the final 21 seconds of the second quarter with a tally by Hans Zdolsek, assisted by Eric Borunda to pull the Poets back square 5-5 going into the halftime break. 

In the second half, the Stags got on the board four consecutive times; Rossman scored his second and final goal of the match to open the second-half scoring at 7:11 in the third quarter and on the power play. Sam Harrison continued the offensive onslaught from the Stags with an even-strength goal at 3:45 and 3:09 to give him two goals on the night. Eric Warmoth would produce what proved to be the final tally for the Stags in the game putting CMS up 9-6 with an even-strength goal at 2:20. 

Whittier responded trailing by three; Zdolsek scored back to back goals to finish with a hat-trick on seven shots and pull the Poets to within one goal, 9-8, with the second coming with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter and both tallies coming on the power play advantage. Micah Kamai tied the game, 9-9, at the 4:31 mark of the final frame with an even-strength goal of his own that was assisted by Carlos Heredia Viteri. Dominick Nevarez gave the Poets the lead for good with 4:04 left in the match and Heredia Viteri and Paul Pittion added a goal each to give the Poets a 12-9 lead. 

CMS finished scoreless in the fourth quarter after tallying nine goals in the first three frames. The Stags outshot the Poets 32-31 and went 4-for-11 on the powerplay. Whittier finished 3-for-9 on the special team advantage and scored six straight goals to complete a comeback victory. Rossman and Harrison finished with two goals apiece and Warmoth, Clark, Box, Britt, and Lewis would finish with one goal each in the loss. 

CMS Men's Water Polo is back in action on Friday, Oct. 4 as they open a full-slate of weekend games in the Gary Troyer Tournament at Axelrood Pool. The Stags host Johns Hopkins and 7 p.m., and then, on the second day of tournament action, face California Baptist (1 p.m.) and Pepperdine (6:20 p.m.) on Oct. 5.