Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Water Polo team under first year Head Coach David Kasa battled over the weekend going 1-2 at the UCLA Invite.
The Purple & Gold who boast the toughest schedule in Division III had their hands full in their first two games taking on Nationally ranked UCLA and USC who are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Men's Varsity Top 20 rankings.
But to cap off the day the Poets were able to bounce back with a huge victory over Division II Fresno Pacific to improve to 1-2.
Game 1 (No. 1 UCLA; L, 20-5)
Whittier showed some fight in the first quarter against the Bruins staying within striking distance at 7-4. They fell behind early 3-0 but scored two of the next three tallies from sophomore Hans Zdolsek (Linkoping, Sweden) and freshman Eric Borunda (Whittier, Calif.), both coming on man-up situations to cut the deficit in half.
With under two minutes to play WC was able to add to their total this time as Cornelis Kriek (Pretoria, South Africa) and Emilio Maldonado (Chula Vista, Calif.) would connect pulling the Poets within three.
But after that the UCLA defensive unit stood strong limiting the Purple & Gold to just one goal over the next three periods. The lone tally coming in the second quarter from freshman Ricardo Reyes Jr. (Commerce, Calif.)
Sophomore goalie Murat Ersoz (Istanbul, Turkey) played between the posts and collected five saves with three coming on man-down situations.
Game 2 (No. 2 USC; L, 25-4)
The Invite didn't get any easier for Whittier as they had to come right back to take on USC. Again the first quarter was a success as they put up three goals from Carlos Heredia Viteri (Commerce, Calif.) and Reyes Jr. In the second and third quarters though the offense was tough to come by as they were shutout seeing the score move to 19-3. In the fourth Marc-Andre Roy (Montreal, Canada) was able to connect on a man-up possession but the deficit was too much as the Poets dropped their second straight.
In goal Ersoz played a half collecting six saves. Eliott Bergerson (Whittier, Calif.) relieved him in the second half and added two stops.
Game 3 (Fresno Pacific; W, 12-9)
Despite facing two tough opponents to begin the Invite the Poets kept their heads up and came away with a positive, stunning Fresno Pacific 12-9. Whittier came out hot with back-to-back connections from Heredia Viteri and Borunda. The Sunbirds rebounded with their own goal soon after to stop the run but freshman Paul Pittion (Aix en Provenca, France) was able to give WC back a two-goal advantage with an unassisted tally.
In the second both teams combined for six goals but the advantage still remained at two at the break. For the Poets they received goals from Zdolsek, Reyes Jr., and Borunda. The story of the game was the third stanza where Whittier was able to outscore FPU 3-1 to extend their lead to four. The Sunbirds added the first of the frame but after that it was all Whittier pushing the lead to 9-5 following scores from Heredia Viteri and Borunda.
Over the final eight minutes FPU tried to push tacking on four but Zdolsek, Borunda and Reyes Jr. were able to keep the offense going allowing the Poets to come away with their first win of 2018.
Ersoz played all 32:00 minutes collecting a season high 11 saves.
Whittier returns to competition this Saturday, September 8 when they take part in the Inland Empire Classic. There they will take on Division I opponents No. 6 Long Beach State (11:40am) and No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (3:40pm).