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Noah Smith continued his strong play for the Stags (photo by Jarred Davis)
Noah Smith continued his strong play for the Stags (photo by Jarred Davis)

Smith Has 16 Saves to Lead Stags to Dominant 16-7 Win over Whittier in Regular Season Finale

WHITTIER, Calif. – Senior goalie Noah Smith had a dominant performance with 16 saves, and 10 different Stags scored goals, as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's water polo team continued its second-half surge with a 16-7 road win over Whittier on Wednesday evening in its regular season finale at the Slade Aquatics Center.  

Len Korol and Christian Thornton had three goals, and Sam Harrison and Christian Pang each had two for the Stags, who head to the SCIAC Tournament next week with a 15-10 record and a 10-4 mark in SCIAC, winning eight of its last nine league games after a 2-3 start. Whittier slips to 10-3 in the league with the loss, and still has a game left with first-place Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday. A Sagehen win in that one would drop Whittier into a tie with CMS for third, and the Stags would have the tiebreaker due to head-to-head goal differential against the Poets.

The first time the two teams met, CMS did not get its first goal until just before halftime before the Poets held on for a 7-5 win. In today's rematch, the Stag offense was able to click right from the start, as Christian Thornton was able to score a goal on the first Stag possession to tie it 1-1.

Eric Warmoth put the Stags in front 2-1 just over a minute later, and after Whittier knotted it up at 2-2, Christian Pang put CMS ahead 3-2 with 4:25 left in the first quarter.  Rob Driscoll then gave the Stags the first two-goal lead of the game with 2:22 left to make it a 4-2 advantage heading into the second.

Len Korol stretched the lead to 5-2 on the power play with 6:19 left in the second quarter. Whittier answered back, but CJ Box responded to make it a 6-3 game with 5:34 left in the half, as CMS exceeded its goal total from the first meeting with Whittier in just over 10 minutes. The score stayed 6-3 heading into the half, thanks to Smith, who had six saves in the final five minutes of the half, including a penalty shot.

Korol stretched the lead to 7-3 with the first goal of the second half, making him the first Stag to score twice. Gavin Rosser then became the seventh different goal-scorer for CMS as he pushed the lead to 8-3 with 5:06 left in the third, forcing a Whittier timeout, which didn't stop the momentum, as Sam Harrison made it eight scorers for the Stags as he pushed the lead to 9-3. Smith made another save on a Whittier 6-on-5, and Harrison scored again to make it a 5-0 run and put CMS ahead 10-3.

Whittier finally snapped the run and pulled to within 10-5, but Pang answered with his second goal to make it 11-5 with 6:35 left. Ben Weldon added an extra-man goal to give the Stags nine goal scorers and stretch the lead to 12-5. Andrew Wraith added a goal in the fourth quarter to become the tenth CMS player to find the net.

The 16-7 final margin matched the same nine-goal spread as the last five games in the series combined, inclduing a 13-12 Whittier win in the SCIAC Championship in 2019 (as well as a 5-3 Poet win in the USA Water Polo Division III Championships). 

CMS will be in action at the SCIAC Tournament next weekend, when it will play a semifinal game on the road on Friday, Nov. 19. If Whittier defeats Pomona-Pitzer, CMS will cross the street for the semis and face the Sagehens, but if Pomona-Pitzer concludes an undefeated regular season with a win over Whittier, the Stags will instead travel to Cal Lutheran, where it just picked up a 10-6 win last week.