Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Water Polo team earned a trip to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Tournament Finals Friday following a 12-7 victory over No. 4 Uni. of Redlands.
In the finals the Purple & Gold will face-off against the No. 2 seeded Stags of Claremont-M-S who pulled off an epic comeback outscoring the No. 3 seeded Sagehens 7-1 in the second half to pull off the 11-10 victory.
With the win against the Bulldogs the Poets have also locked themselves a spot in the inaugural Division III National Championships, which will be held the first weekend of December. Whittier and Claremont-M-S will meet at 11:00am, tomorrow, Sunday, November 24 at the Lillian Slade Aquatic Center to see who will host the Division III National Championships and who will be crowned the 2019 SCIAC Tournament Champions.
Whittier has now won four straight and eight of their last nine as they improve to 18-12, 13-1 SCIAC.
It was a slow start for the Purple & Gold who were forced to play from behind early. They trailed 3-1 after the 1st Quarter with their lone goal coming from senior Dominick Nevarez (Norwalk, Calif.). In the 2nd Quarter the Poets picked it up defensively holding UR scoreless, while tacking on another two strikes from Ricardo Reyes Jr. (Commerce, Calif.) and Nevarez.
Out of the half Whittier's offense began to click on all cylinders outscoring Redlands 4-1, which gave them their first lead of the game at 7-4. Nevarez led off the run getting fed by Maxwell Murphy (Orinda, Calif.) and then added a power-play connection the next time down the pool. Murphy then added his first of the game soon after and Paul Pittion (Aix en Provenca, France) ended the 4-0 spurt that made it a three-goal differential.
The Bulldogs got one back to start off the 4th to get within two but that's as close as they would get as three unanswered from Hans Zdolsek (Linkoping, Sweden), Murphy, and Eric Borunda (Whittier, Calif.) would put the game out of reach. Across the final 3:00 minutes UR would threaten with a pair of goals but Mackenzie Aakhus (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Nevarez would answer with two of their own that would put the finishing touches on the first semi-final game.
Whittier outshot Redlands 37-22 and was 3-for-8 on power plays. Murat Ersoz (Istanbul, Turkey) played all 32:00 minutes between the posts and finished with 10 saves and a steal. Nevarez led the offense with five goals and two steals. Murphy added two goals and an assist and Zdolsek would tack on a goal and a game high four picks.