ERIE, Pa. -- Goalie Andrew Too-A-Foo (Sr., Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago/Fatima College) made 10 saves to cap off tournament Most Valuable honors as host Mercyhurst University hung an 11-8 defeat on Connecticut College in the title game of the inaugural/2016 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)-West Region Championship at the David M. Hallman Aquatics Center.
Mercyhurst (13-11, 7-2 MAWPC West), which previously defeated Washington & Jefferson College (12-9 W) and Gannon University (12-10 W) on Saturday, November 5 to make the title game, needed to overcome an early 2-0 deficit in the first quarter to top Connecticut (11-15, 6-3 MAWPC-West) and claim the program's first-ever division title.
Down 2-0 with 4:23 left in the first quarter after penalty shot score by Isaih Porter (Jr., La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla) at 5:23 and an even-strength tally by Henry McMillan (Sr., Chapel Hill, N.C./Choate Rosemary Hall) exactly one minute later at 4:23, Mercyhurst climbed back into the game as Jack Howe (Sr., Thousand Oaks, Calif./Crespi Carmelite) swished a natural goal (1:36) and Otis Tyson (So., Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's) dropped in a man-up strike (50 seconds) to balance the damage at two-all. Connecticut went back in front with 16 seconds left via an even-strength marker by Sean King (Fr., La Cañada, Calif., Calif./Flintridge Prep), but Mercyhurst once again erased a deficit as Connor Schmitz (So., Schaumburg, Ill./James B. Conant) slipped in a penalty shot with no time left on the clock to make it three-all after eight minutes of action.
Mercyhurst went ahead for the first time 28 seconds into the second quarter as Schmitz chucked a ball into the cage to convert on a six-on-five opportunity (7:32) prior to Ryan Witoslawski (Fr., Harleysville, Pa./Souderton Area) lining in a natural goal (5:51) to hand the Lakers a 5-3 margin.
The lead grew to 6-3 as Howe dumped in another man-up marker with 1:54 until halftime, but the Camels humped their way back as Dylan Pinckert (Jr., Long Beach, Calif./Loyola) laced home even-strength (1:45) and advantage (six seconds) tallies to make it 6-5 by halftime.
Alec Diaz (So., Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona) cushioned the lead to gap to 7-5 at the 7:23 mark of the third quarter before McMillan answered for Connecticut at 2:56 to return the margin to one at 7-6.
Following a score by Alex Cappuccio (Fr., Havre de Grace, Md., Calvert Hall) on a six-on-five opportunity at 2:08 to inflate the lead to 8-6 the Camels clawed their way back into a tie prior to the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Trailing by a pair and desperately needing some momentum to have hopes of upending the Lakers, Connecticut turned to Stephan Cress (Jr, Rockford, Mich./Rockford) and Carlos Heros (Sr., Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) as the duo punched in goals at 1:17 and two seconds, respectively, to make it an eight-all game.
Unlike the back-and-forth style of the first three quarters, Mercyhurst dominated the final eight minutes as Joey Ryan (Sr., Winnetka, Ill./New Trier), Philip Jenny (So., Lawrenceville, Georgia/Collins Hill) and Diaz racked up strikes at 6:10 (even-strength), 5:19 (man-up) and 4:21 (even-strength), respectively, to account for the only offensive damage in the fourth quarter for the 11-8 final score.
For Connecticut, the duo of Pinckert and McMillan scored twice with King, Heros, Cress and Porter each finding the back of the cage once. In cage, Matthew Wagman (Jr., Atlanta, Georgia/Williston Northampton) made four saves over the span of 27:39 before being pulled after allowing two goals in the decisive fourth quarter. Porter came in from the field to take over in cage and turned away four shots with one goal allowed over the final 4:21 to close out the game between the pipes for the Camels.
The loss wraps-up a weekend in which the Camels downed both La Salle University (19-9 W) and Salem International University (19-15 W) prior to falling to the Lakers.
Mercyhurst received pairs of markers from Schmitz, Howe and Diaz to accompany single tallies by Cappuccio, Witoslawski, Jenny, Tyson and Jenny.
Too-A-Foo, who received the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament plaque following the title tilt, finished with 10 saves to claim the victory.
In other awards, Mercyhurst head coach Curtis Robinette received Coach of the Tournament accolades, while Salem International University's Milos Popovic (Fr., Nis, Serbia/Gimnasium 9 May) picked up Rookie of the Tournament honors.
Both Mercyhurst and Connecticut will continue the season in two weeks at the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) Championship at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. on Friday-Sunday, November 18-20 against Fordham University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, the United States Naval Academy and Wagner College. The champion of the MAWPC Championship earns a berth in the 2016 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship tournament.
|Connecticut College (11-15)
|Mercyhurst University (13-11)
Mercyhurst Goals: Connor Schmitz (2); Jack Howe (2); Alec Diaz (2); Alex Cappuccio; Ryan Witoslawski; Philip Jenny; Otis Tyson; Joey Ryan
Exclusions: Mercyhurst - 7 ; Connecticut - 12
Advantage Opportunities: Mercyhurst - 6-for-12 ; Connecticut - 2-for-7
Sprints: Mercyhurst - 3-for-4 (1st, 2nd, 4th) ; Connecticut - 1-for-4 (3rd)
Officials: Pat Beemer, Hadi Farid