Whittier, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps to Meet for USA Water Polo Division III Crown

The inaugural USA Water Polo Men’s Division III Championship will be an all Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference affair after #1 Whittier and #2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps both came up victorious in Saturday’s semifinals.

#1 Whittier used a five goal second period to get past #4 MIT 12-8, while CMS outscored #5 Johns Hopkins 9-6 in the second half en route to a 14-11 victory.

The Poets won two of the three regular season meetings with the Stags, picking up a 12-9 win on October 2 and a 13-12 victory in the SCIAC Championship match. CMS posted a 10-9 home victory on November 6.

USA Water Polo Division III Championships
Dec. 7 Semifinal 1: Whittier def. MIT 12-8 7:30 p.m. Watch Live Stats
Semifinal 2: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps def. Johns Hopkins 14-11 9:30 p.m. Watch Live Stats
Dec. 8 Third Place: MIT vs. Johns Hopkins 1:30 p.m. Watch Live Stats
Championship: Whittier vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 3:30 p.m. Watch Live Stats

Semifinal 1: #1 Whittier def. #4 MIT 12-8

A five-goal second quarter gave Whittier the cushion it needed to hold off a late MIT run en route to a 12-8 win and a spot in the inaugural USA Water Polo Division III Championship match.

Five different Whittier players put in two goals apiece, while Murat Ersoz made 14 saves (.636 save percentage) to lead the Poets.

Miller Geschke scored four times to lead MIT’s four scorers in the loss, while Hayden Niederreiter made seven saves (.368 save percentage).

The teams traded goals in the opening stanza with Eric Borunda (6:52) and Cornelis Kriek (1:13) doing the honors for the Poets, while Geschke (3:29) and Christian Schillinger (0:16) found the back of the net for the Engineers.

Whittier went up 4-2 in the first minute of the second period as Maxwell Murphy converted a powerplay opportunity (7:43) and Borunda added a goal shortly thereafter (7:06).

Clyde Huibregtse (6:06) countered for MIT, but Hans Zdolsek (4:31) and Ricardo Reyes Jr. (power play 4:02) pushed the Whittier advantage to three (6-3). Geschke managed a powerplay score (1:50), but Zdolsek (0:12) gave the Poets a 7-4 halftime lead.

Both teams were scoreless for the first five minutes of the third quarter, before Huibregtse broke through (2:36). Twenty seconds later, Whittier’s Micah Kamai followed (2:17). Geschke (powerplay 1:50) and Kriek (1:15) rounded out the period with scores to make it 9-6 in favor of the hosts.

Dominick Nevarez scored just 25 seconds into the fourth quarter, and again at the 3:17 mark pushing the Poet lead to five (11-6). MIT narrowed the gap care of Kevin Downey (3:00) and Geschke (powerplay 2:26), but it the rally came up short as Reyes put in the game’s final goal on a Whittier powerplay with 2:05 remaining.

Semifinal 2: #2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps def. #5 Johns Hopkins 14-11

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps earned its spot in the Division III Championship match by surging ahead in the third quarter and hanging on for the win.

Christian Thornton paced the CMS offense with a hat trick, while Zack Rossman, Sam Harrison and CJ Box added two goals apiece amidst nine scorers. Noah Smith made 15 saves (.577 save percentage).

Emerson Sullivan turned in a hat trick for Johns Hopkins, while Olin Shipstead, Stephen Schmidt and Jayden Kunwar added two scores each. Max Fleming registered seven stops in the goal (.333 save percentage).

Johns Hopkins made good on its first of six powerplay attempts as Sullivan scored to open the game (6:30). Box tied it up for CMS (3:52). Shipstead (2:54) and Rossman (powerplay 1:07) then traded goals to make it 2-all. Kunwar landed the final strike of the first quarter on a powerplay (0:26) to put the Blue Jays ahead 3-2.

The Stags drew level on a Koss Klobucher goal (7:15) and took the lead on a penalty by Rossman (3:06). John Murphy converted a powerplay (2:31) to tie it up at 4. Schmidt put JHU up 5-4 with 1:30 to go in the stanza, but Thornton answered 28 seconds later (1:02).

Jake Pearson (5:53) had the Blue Jays up 6-5, but Ethan Lewis (5:37) erased the margin. Kunwar scored on a penalty (5:03) only to have Thorton again come through for the Stags (3:59). CMS grabbed the lead care of Sam Harrison (2:37) and made it a two-goal margin as Will Clark scored on a powerplay (1:35). Schmidt (1:18) kept JHU close, but Nick Britt added a powerplay goal (0:26) to give CMS a 10-8 lead with eight minutes to play.

JHU’s Sullivan (7:14) started the scoring in the final stanza. Box (6:16) and Thornton (5:14) gave CMS a 12-9 cushion. Shipstead (3:45) kept the Blue Jays in the game, but Kyle Ballack (2:57) answered for the Stags. Sullivan (2:05) again narrowed the gap to two (13-11), but a comeback was not to be. Sullivan took four more shots, three of which were saved and one which was blocked, before Harrison put the icing on the win for CMS with a final goal at the 16 second mark.

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