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Noah Smith and Will Clark celebrate a win in the last SCIAC Tournament matchup with Pomona-Pitzer
Noah Smith and Will Clark celebrate a win in the last SCIAC Tournament matchup with Pomona-Pitzer

CMS Men's Water Polo Battles Pomona-Pitzer Sunday Morning for SCIAC Title

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's water polo team, winners of 10 of its last 11, will battle a Pomona-Pitzer team that went undefeated in SCIAC play this season for the league championship on Sunday morning at Haldeman Pool, beginning at 11 a.m.

CMS has peaked at the end of the season with three huge road wins over the last two weeks. The first two came at Cal Lutheran (10-6) and at Whittier (16-7) to close out the regular season, which moved the Stags up from the fourth seed and into the third seed, avoiding Pomona-Pitzer until the championship game. Those wins proved to be vital, as CMS defeated Cal Lutheran a second time (15-10) on Friday to advance to the SCIAC finals and earn a bid to the USA Water Polo Division III Championships on Dec. 4-5, after finishing as runner-up to Whittier in that event in 2019. 

The Stags earned their way into the USA Water Polo Championships in 2019 by winning an epic semifinal game against Pomona-Pitzer, rallying back from down 7-2 after the first quarter (and 9-4 at the half) to win 12-11 and eliminating the Sagehens from the postseason. Pomona-Pitzer has had the upper hand in the regular season this year, winning 11-8 at CMS and then breaking open a game that was tied 6-6 in the second half to win 12-8 in the rematch at Haldeman Pool, which is the only game that the Stags have lost in their last 10 contests.

CMS has clearly gotten better as the season has gone on. The Stags struggled in a matchup with Cal Lutheran in a season-opening tournament at Air Force 15-6, then fell behind 4-0 in the rematch at Axelrood before forcing it into overtime, when the Kingsmen won 12-11. In the last two meetings with Cal Lutheran, though, the Stags have dominated in 10-6 and 15-10 wins, finals that the Kingsmen made look a little closer with meaningless late goals (a 2-0 run in the last minute of the 10-6 win and a 4-0 run in the last 2:30 of the 15-10 win).

The Stags also dropped a 7-5 meeting to Whittier in the first matchup, when they struggled to score, not netting their first goal until the final moments of the first half, but then won the rematch 16-7 as the offense fired on all cylinders. 

The Sagehens have been steady all season, with their closest SCIAC wins by three-goal margins (over both CMS and Redlands). They were tested by Whittier in the semifinals, trailing 10-8 at the half, but controlled the second half for a 19-14 win to advance to Sunday's championship. 

Both teams could meet again in the USA Water Polo Championships in two weeks, which will be a four-team tournament involving two East Coast teams and two West Coast teams. The Stags and Sagehens earned the right to represent the West with their SCIAC Semifinal wins on Friday, while MIT and Johns Hopkins will compete from the East.