Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
ORANGE, Calif. – The Whittier College men's water polo team Sunday afternoon was crowned the 2013 SCIAC Champions after defeating the Stags of Claremont-M-S 10-9 in sudden death overtime capping off an impressive weekend during the SCIAC Championships.
This marks the first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship for the Purple & Gold since 2004 and the first under the tutelage of Head Coach Justin Pudwill.
With the win, the Poets also finish the regular season No. 1 in the CWPA Division III polls for the third time in the programs history (2004, 2009) as they finish with the best conference record in the Whittier College men's water polo history books at 20-12, 10-1 SCIAC.
"It was a great win. I believe it has been a long time coming, and I am really proud of my team!" explained Pudwill.
During the Championships the Poets beat Occidental 15-11 in the first round before holding off Pomona-Pitzer 16-10 in the semi-finals to move into the Championship game. During the regular season series the Poets and Stags were deadlocked at a game a piece with CMS winning back on September 29 13-12 before the Poets ran through them 16-10 on November 2.
Whittier held a 2-1 advantage after the first quarter of play with both goals coming from freshman center Wedge Molthen (Buena Vista, Calif.). The Poets grabbed another goal midway through the second from Erick Gonzalez (Commerce, Calif.) but the Stags managed to tally three goals themselves to go into the break up 4-3.
But CMS didn't go away finding the back of the goal first in the fourth quarter before outscoring the Poets 3-1 that evened the game up at eight. The final goal for the Stags came with just a second on the clock in regulation after two misconduct penalties were called on Goran Mataic (Split, Croatia) and Tanner Cullen with five seconds to play.
In the first overtime session, CMS answered first to go out in front 9-8 but with :53 seconds remaining the Poets' would add the equalizer from Marko Zuric (Split, Croatia). After a scoreless second overtime, the game went into sudden death OT. The Stags won the opening sprint in the period but came away empty on their first possession, the game became a seesaw battle after that until the 2:16 mark where Molthen was found inside at the center position. He was able to maneuver around the defender and put one past Stag goalie James Kelly, for the game winner making the Poets SCIAC Champions.
Between the posts, junior goalie Ryan "The Blockade" Brunansky (Poway, Calif.) came away with big saves down the stretch, which included three in OT totaling 16 for the game.
Whittier returns to the pool tomorrow to begin practicing for the NCAA National Championships play-in game, which will take place next Wednesday, December 5 at Stanford University with the opponent still to be decided. The Poets have won 11 of their last 12 games, which includes an eight game winning streak which they currently ride heading into the NCAA National Championships.
"We will probably get the 3rd MPSF team which will be a tough match up. But we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We are not picked to win that game so we are going to give them everything we got!" stated Pudwill.