CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Men's water polo team trailed by two goals at the halftime but rallied with four consecutive goals and avoided a comeback by No. 1 Whittier as Zack Rossman scored the game-winning goal to earn a 10-9 victory on Senior Night at Axelrood Pool.
With the win, the Stags improve to 9-2 in the SCIAC and 14-9 overall and gives previously conference-unbeaten No. 1 nationally ranked Whittier its first loss dropping the Poets to 10-1 in the SCIAC and 14-12 overall. CMS is in second place all by itself by a-half game as Pomona-Pitzer was idle on Wednesday night. The Sagehens face La Verne on Saturday as the Stags welcome Occidental (1-10) to Axelrood Pool for the final home Saturday match of the regular season. This victory was huge for not only the SCIAC race but also the Stags national seeding as it sits at No. 4 in the nation and eyeing a berth into the postseason conference tournament with a chance at the national tournament.
The Stags trailed the Poets 6-4 going into halftime but would go on a four-goal run to open the second half to grab an 8-6 lead. Ethan Lewis scored a powerplay goal at 7:10 of the third quarter off an assist by Rossman to cut the deficit to one goal, 6-5. Will Clark followed with a tally off an assist by Kyle Ballack to tie the game 6-6 with 6:38 left in the third stanza. Clark put the Stags in front 7-6 with an even-strength goal with 5:35 left in the third quarter and Christian Thornton gave CMS a two-goal lead with a netter off an assist by Rossman at the 4:12 mark of the third.
Whittier answered back with a goal by Eric Borunda, who finished with three goals on the night, to cut the Stags lead to 8-7 going into the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth and final frame, Maxwell Murphy tied the match 8-8 with an unassisted powerplay goal at the 5:44 mark to swing momentum back in favor of the Poets.
After Clark took an exclusion and the defense along with goaltender Noah Smith stood tall to the pressure, Lewis drew an exclusion against Murphy and Clark scored on the ensuing powerplay to put the Stags back in front 9-8. Just 22 seconds later, the Poets answered with a goal by Dominick Nevarez to tie the game 9-9 and keep the heat on the Stags with 3:52 left in regulation.
Rossman was denied on his first shot attempt following an exclusion of Whittier's Ricardo Reyes Jr. but he wouldn't be denied on a powerful shot off a feed by Clark that beat Poet goaltender Murat Ersoz and gave CMS the lead for good, 10-9. A goal that brought the CMS faithful to its feet and rang out throughout Axelrood Pool with just 2:05 left in regulation.
The Poets made one final push as Reyes Jr. hit the post and Nevarez missed a shot toward the net of Smith. CJ Box hit the post in response as he tried to gain back a two-goal lead and weather the storm of Whittier advances. One final shot was saved by Smith and the Stags held on to possession to finish out a big victory on Wednesday night at Axelrood Pool by the final score of 10-9.
CMS and Whittier finished with 27 shots apiece and the Stags took advantage of its lone penalty shot going 1-1 with that opportunity. Whittier converted on 4-8 (.500) of its powerplays and CMS found the back of the net on 3-8 (.375) of its man-advantage. Clark led the way with three goals (1 assist, 4 points), Thornton and Box finished with two goals apiece. Lewis, Koss Klobucher, and Rossman finished with one goal each. Rossman dished out three assists on the night to finish with four points.
Borunda tallied three goals for Whittier, Reyes Jr. finished with two goals, and Nevarez alongside Hans Zdolsek, Carlos Heredia Viteri, and Maxwell Murphy finished with one goal apiece to pace the Poets.
The Stags are back in action on Saturday, Nov. 9 against Occidental at 11 a.m. This continues a four-game homestand and the Stags cap the homestand with a final home-match against Pomona-Pitzer on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.