Photos by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Water Polo team has been crowned the 2019 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic conference (SCIAC) Tournament Champions following a 13-12 victory over No. 2 Claremont-M-S.
This is the Poets' third SCIAC Postseason Tournament championship having previously won it in 2013 and 2014. With the win the Purple & Gold have also earned the hosting bid for the inaugural USA Water Polo Division III National Championships set to take place December 7-8. The four teams who will take part in the two-day event will include Whittier College, Claremont-M-S, MIT, and Johns Hopkins.
Whittier moves their record to 19-12, 13-1 SCIAC and extend their winning streak to five games, while going 7-1 in the month of November. The Poets have also remained perfect at home with a 9-0 record and have won nine of their last ten stretching back to October 23.
Sunday's SCIAC Tournament final was a back-and-forth affair that saw neither team mount more than a three-goal cushion. CMS held a slim, 3-2 advantage after eight minutes of play, with Whittier holding a 5-4 advantage in the second quarter to even the game at 7-7 at intermission. The Poets then held a 3-2 edge in the third period, while the sides netted three goals each in the fourth stanza allowing Whittier to hold on for a 13-12 victory.
CMS jumped out in front on their second possession but that lead wouldn't hold as Dominick Nevarez (Norwalk, Calif.) and Maxwell Murphy (Orinda, Calif.) would go back to back that put WC on top 2-1. The Stags then responded with two of their own to regain the lead back at the end of the 1st Quarter. Out of the break, the Poets earned a pair of quick tallies from Micah Kamai (Irvine, Calif.) and Eric Borunda (Whittier, Calif.), but again saw CMS counter with another two that moved the deficit back to one with 2:15 to play in the half. Kamai picked up his second goal of the game at the 1:54 mark and then it was back and forth after that with each team adding two moving the score into a tie at 7-7 at intermission. The final two goals for the Poets came from Ricardo Reyes Jr. (Commerce, Calif.) and Enrico Antunes (Sao Paulo, Brazil).
Out of the half Whittier outscored Claremont-M-S 3-2, which included the first two of the frame from Murphy and Hans Zdolsek (Linkoping, Sweden). Cornelis Kriek (Pretoria, South Africa) then responded three minutes later with a power-play tally inside set that gave WC a 10-9 advantage going into the 4th.
Holding that one-goal advantage heading to the fourth period, Whittier extended its lead to 12-9 as Murphy and tournament MVP Nevarez scored back-to-back goals to give the Poets a three-goal cushion with 4:41 to play in the frame. Zack Rossman answered for CMS with a 5-meter goal, before Paul Pittion (Ai en Provenca, France) pushed the lead back to three with 1:26 to play. A power play goal by the Stags' Christian Thornton with 54 seconds, followed by a 5-meter marker by Thornton with just two seconds on the clock pulled CMS to within one at 13-12 but it was not enough as Whittier fended off the late rally to complete the win.
Murphy netted three goals for Whittier, while Nevarez and Kamai added two each. Reyes Jr., Zdolsek, Kriek, Pittion, Antunes, and Borunda added a goal each to help seal the win for the Poets.