WHITTIER, Calif. – For the first time in two years the Whittier College men's water polo team was finally able to conduct a home contest in the refurbished Slade Aquatic Center as they posted a 2-1 record getting wins over Fresno Pacific and Citrus College before dropping a tight decision to Loyola Marymount.
Loyola Marymount opened the day against the Poets ranked No. 1 in the Western Region and No. 10 nationally in Div. III. LMU jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before Whittier answered with their own 3-0 run getting goals from Eoghan Foley (2), and Michael Eachus that cut the Lion's lead to two. But LMU answered right back with three of their own goals putting them in front 8-3 going into the half.
To open up the third quarter, Whittier got a quick goal from Goran Mataic that pulled the Purple & Gold within four, but that's as close as they would get as LMU would rattle off four straight goals to extend their lead to 12-4 before Mataic stopped the bleeding at the 1:25 mark.
In the final frame, Whittier managed one goal that came at 2:33 from Douglas Marriott but the Lions offense was too much to overcome tacking on five insurance goals to wrap up the game.
In the second game on the afternoon, Whittier took on Fresno Pacific, an NAIA program that includes scholarship players. Whittier jumped out in front 2-0 getting goals from Cameron Rehm and Foley and then swapped goals with the Sunbirds over the next two minutes before FSU tied the game up at 3-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Forty seconds into the second quarter Mataic added his first goal of the game that again put Whittier in front 4-3, before FSU tacked on the game tying goal off of an exclusion at the 4:51 mark. In the final 1:05, four goals were scored, two from each team forcing the game into a tie heading into the break. Carlos Panfilo added both goals for the Poets.
Coming out of intermission Whittier scored two unanswered from Rehm and Kyle Catino , before the Sunbirds pulled within one at 5:07. But Whittier wouldn't relinquish the lead as Kurt Holzmuller, Gavin Kerr, and Panfilo gave the Poets a lead 11-7 going into the final quarter, where FSU was only able to gather one, helping Whittier preserve the victory.
In the final game of the day, Whittier took on Citrus College and it was all Poets from the first quarter to the last getting goals from nine different players cruising to the 20-8 victory. Whittier jumped out in front again for the second straight game getting three goals from Justin Pratt in the first quarter and a lone goal from Marriott that put the Poets up 4-1. In the second the Fighting Owls made a comeback tacking on two but Whittier used a 7-1 run to close out the half getting two goals from Cole Veloz and Marriott and goals from John Brown, Con O'Leary, and Kerr.
Coming out of the half, the Fighting Owls hit on back to back to back goals that pulled them within five at 11-6 but it was short-lived as Whittier again answered with a 7-0 run capped off with three goals by O'Leary. Getting in on the action during the quarter included seniors Erick Bonander and Thomas Clauss who each tallied their first goals of the season helping Whittier move the lead to 18-6 heading into the final quarter.
In the final frame, Citrus answered first and then swapped goals with the Poets over the next four minutes unable to cut into the Whittier lead until Daniel Cox finished the game for the Poets with an emphatic goal with :55 seconds remaining to clinch the victory for the Purple & Gold 20-8.
Water Polo returns to the pool next weekend on Sept. 8-9 as they travel to the University of Redlands to take part in the Inland Empire Classic where they will take on UC Davis, Santa Clara, Redlands, and UC Santa Barbara.