Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Water Polo team was perfect Saturday as they opened 2017 in impressive fashion going 3-0 during the Whittier Open, which included wins over L.A. Valley College, Cerritos, and Redlands.
Game 1 (L.A. Valley College; W, 10-9)
The Monarchs gave the Poets a test in the first game of the Open. A combined seven goals were scored in the first quarter with L.A. Valley holding a slight edge at 4-3. The defense picked up in the second with each team scoring twice sending the score into the half 6-5. The Monarchs stretched the lead to two at the completion of the third but that's the final lead they hold as the Purple & Gold rolled in the final eight minutes outscoring L.A. Valley 4-1, with the game winner coming with 1:27 to play from Carlos Heredia Viteri (Commerce, Calif.).
Whittier was outshot for the game 29-23 and was just 1-7 on man-up opportunities.
Murat Ersoz (Istanbul, Turkey) played all 32 minutes between the posts and added eight saves. In scoring the 2017 class combined for nine of the ten goals led by Hans Zdolsek (Linkoping, Sweden) and Heredia Viteri who each added three. Senior Aidan Tol (Tustin, Calif.) despite not finding the back of the net was able to tally three steals.
Game 2 (Cerritos; W, 18-5)
It was all Purple & Gold in their second match-up against the Falcons of Cerritos. They took an 8-3 lead into the break and didn't look back as a 6-0 fourth quarter would put the finishing touches on the lopsided victory.
Whittier held the advantage on shots at 28-27, was 4-14 on extra-man opportunities and converted a 5-meter penalty.
23 players saw action in the game with goals coming from 14 of them. Zdolsek, Marc-Andre Roy (Montreal, Canada), Quinn LaCoursiere (Delray Beach, FL), and Youssef Zaaza (Northridge, Calif.). Freshmen Toby Chung (La Canada, Calif.) and Kyle Aguilar (Corona, Calif.) each recorded a couple steals. Both Ersoz and Andrew Wettstead (Fresno, Calif.) played in goal for the Poets combining for 12 saves and a steal.
Game 3 (Redlands; W, 12-11)
The highlight match-up of the day was the nightcap between the Poets and the Bulldogs. It was a highly anticipated game and a rematch from last year's third place game of the SCIAC Championships. Despite being outshot 35-29 and only converting 1-4 man-up opportunities, the Poets were able to thwart the Bulldogs extra chances on the evening holding them to a mere 1-11 on extra-man opportunities.
Tol got the scoring started at the 6:29 mark and Heredia Vitari followed with one himself putting the Poets up 2-0 in the first two minutes of the game. Kriek and Tyler Fields (Norwalk, Calif.) would combo together soon after to move the lead to 3-1 but it was short-lived as back to back strikes from UR would deadlock the game.
It was a defensive stand early in the second quarter until the 4:42 mark when the Purple & Gold went off with three straight sparked by an unassisted goal by Kriek and back-to-back connections of Tol to Heredia Viteri.
This moved the score to 6-3 but again the Bulldogs stayed around adding three of the next four goals to pull within one at the break, 7-6.
It was a stalemate in the second half. Both the Poets and Bulldogs each added two in the third quarter that kept the game at a one-goal differential. Then in the fourth it came down to the final possession. Tim Aakhus (Bakersfield, Calif.) added the first of the frame that put WC on top by two. Redlands answered the bell though with two of their own over their next two possessions that tied the game up. Roy stopped the attack with an unassisted goal from long range with 4:43 to play but again Redlands managed to get the equalizer from Aki Anderson on their next trip down the pool. The eventual game-winner came from Kriek with 3:24 to play who was fed by Aakhus.
Redlands had opportunities down the stretch to tie the game up but they just couldn't get through the tough defensive unit of the Poets as they would hold onto the one-goal victory. Ersoz had a game in goal for the Poets playing the whole game and picking up 11 saves, which included three in the final minute, which secured the win.
Whittier returns to the pool this Saturday, September 9 as they take part in the Inland Empire Classic where they will take on Claremont-M-S (10:20am) and Concordia (1:20pm).