Huge First-Half Run Carries CMS Men's Water Polo Into SCIAC Finals
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Eleven different players scored goals, including seven in an 8-0 first-half run, and senior goalie and league Defensive Player of the Year Noah Smith had a career-high 18 saves and six goals allowed, as the CMS men's water polo team captured a 15-10 win over Cal Lutheran in the semifinals of the SCIAC Tournament on Friday afternoon.
With the win, CMS improves to 16-10 on the season, and advances on to compete in both the SCIAC finals on Sunday (against the winner of the Pomona-Pitzer vs. Whittier semifinal) and in the USA Water Polo Division III Championships, which will be held on Dec. 4-5.
Len Korol got CMS started on its front foot with a goal on the first possession of the game on a 6-on-5 after CJ Box drew an exclusion. Cal Lutheran scored on its next two possessions to take its only lead of the afternoon, before the Stags rattled off five goals in a row to close out the first quarter. Box tied the score off a feed from Eric Warmoth, and Rob Driscoll gave the Stags a 3-2 lead on a feed from William Thomas.
After Noah Smith had a save, Gavin Rosser converted to put CMS ahead 4-2 with 3:08 still left in the first quarter. Just over a minute later, Christian Pang converted to give CMS its fifth different goal-scorer in the first quarter. Then with just one second left, Smith threw a long outlet pass to Theodore Pasquesi, who converted with just one second left to make it a 6-2 CMS lead after the first eight minutes.
Box started the second quarter with a goal to extend the CMS lead to 7-2, and the scoring run to 6-0. Smith, meanwhile, made three saves in the first two minutes of the second quarter to prevent the Kingsmen from stopping momentum, and Will Clark then scored to make it 8-2 and give the Stags seven different goal scorers. Sam Harrison made it eight when he converted to make it 9-2 with 3:55 left in the half.
Cal Lutheran finally ended the drought with back-to-back goals to close to within 9-4, but Christian Thornton converted a penalty shot in the closing seconds to give the Stags a 10-4 lead heading into the break, with nine different players accounting for those 10 goals.
The Kingsmen clawed back within 10-6 in the third quarter with 3:34 left and put some pressure on the Stags, but Thornton answered back with 3:20 left in the third to put CMS back ahead by five. Harrison scored the first goal of the fourth quarter on a 6-on-5 to make it a 12-6 game, and CMS was able to build the lead to 15-6 and cruise down the stretch, including goals from Andrew Wraith and Kyle Ballack to become the tenth and eleventh CMS players to find the net.
Smith came out of the game with 2:33 left and a career-high 18 saves, surpassing his high of 17 which he set twice earlier this season, and only six goals allowed. The Kingsmen closed on a 4-0 run after the game was long since decided.
The SCIAC Championship game will be held on Sunday in Claremont, although which pool will be determined later this evening. If top-seeded Pomona-Pitzer defeats Whittier, it will host the Stags on Sunday, and if the Poets are able to pull off the upset, they will visit CMS at Axelrood Pool.