ERIE, Pa. -- Player of the Game Stephan Cress (Jr., Rockford, Mich./Rockford) scored eight goals as Connecticut College surprised Salem International University, 19-15, to reach the title game of the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)-West Region Championship hosted by Mercyhurst University at the David M. Hallman III Aquatics Center.
The win punches the program's ticket to the MAWPC-West Region title game at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 6, against the host Lakers who defeated Gannon University by a 12-10 count in the other semfinal.
"Tonight was fun," Head Men's and Women's Water Polo Coach Matt Anderson said. "Watching the team come together this week and the passion that they had as the game went on. They have had an outstanding two games and are really enjoying the fruits of the hard work they have put in. This team has picked the right weekend to be playing their best water polo!"
Further, the win guarantees an extension of the Camels' season as Connecticut (11-14, 6-2 MAWPC-West) and Mercyhurst both advance to the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference 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.
Trailing 9-8 at halftime, Connecticut tied the game and grabbed its inaugural lead in the first two minutes of the third quarter as Henry McMillan (Sr., Chapel Hill, N.C./Choate Rosemary Hall) knotted the score at nine-all 40 seconds into the frame prior to Dylan Pinckert (Jr., Long Beach, Calif./Loyola) converting on a man-up bid at 6:46 to place the Camels out in front 10-9.
Djordje Stavreveski (Jr., Pancevo, Serbia/Sportska Gimnazjia Beograd) rebalanced the scoreboard at 10-all by putting away a six-on-five bid at 6:23, but Connecticut blew the game open with a 4-0 run to grab the lead for good.
Cress ignited the run by putting away five-meter penalty (6:07), power-play (4:48) and natural (4:21) shots to surround a man-up strike from McMillan (4:48) to balloon the margin to 14-10.
Salem International (8-14, 5-3 MAWPC-West) trimmed its deficit down to a pair as Stavrevski and Robert Juhas (Fr., Pancevo, Serbia/Electrotechnical "Nikola Tesla") ripped in man-up chances at 4:08 and 3:33, respectively, to move back within 14-12.
However, consecutive scores by Sean King (Fr., La Cañada, Calif., Calif./Flintridge Prep) (even-strength, 1:46) and Carlos Heros (Sr., Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) (man-up, 1:16) in the span of 30 seconds padded the Camels' lead to 16-12 prior to Juhas responding for the Tigers by converting on a power-play bid with nine seconds on the third quarter clock to make it 16-13.
Following over two minutes of scoreless play in the fourth quarter, Connecticut broke through as Cress canned another man-up opportunity with 5:42 on the clock to expand the lead to 17-13.
The teams traded goals from there as Heros (5:12) and Cress (3:14) put away natural chances for Connecticut, while Stavrevski (5:27) and Juhas (3:14) found the back of the cage in the closing moments of the game to establish the 19-15 final score.
The second half was in sharp contrast to the first 16 minutes of competition in the first half as Salem held a 5-2 scoring advantage in the first quarter to grab a substantial lead.
Mateo Kozomara (So., Chicago, Ill./Maine East) opened the scoring for the Tigers by putting away a man-up bid with 5:43 on the opening quarter's clock. Cress connected on his first goal of the game via a man-up bid at 5:05, but Marton Dudok (So., Budapest, Hungary/Szinyei Merse Pal) and Stavrevski responded with back-to-back strikes at 4:21 and 2:28 to push Connecticut out to a 4-1 lead.
Heros trimmed the Camels' deficit down to 4-2 at 1:53 before Kozomara finished out the first quarter with a tally to expand Salem International's lead to 5-2 after eight minutes of action.
The second quarter was predominantly Connecticut College dominated as the Camels outscored the Tigers 6-4 to shrink its deficit to one at 9-8 going into halftime.
A five-meter penalty shot by Cress at 7:46 pulled the Camels within 5-3, but a natural tally from Stavrevski at 7:15 expanded the margin back to three at 6-3. The lead continued to swing from two-to-three and back again as Arturo Freitas (Fr., Weston, Fla./Cypress Bay) drilled in a man-up bid at 5:57 prior to Inigo Velasco (So., Madrid, Spain/Colegio San Agustin) responding with an even-strength marker to swing the score from 6-4 to 7-4.
Following penalty shot (4:11) and advantage (3:14) goals by Heros to move Connecticut within one at 7-6, Salem International reinflated the lead to three at 9-6 prior to the 1:41 mark of the second quarter as Stavrevski (2:55) and Aaron Sebok (Fr., Angleton, Texas/Angleton) (1:41) pumped in balls to resupply momentum to the Tigers.
However, Cress (1:28) and Isaih Porter (Jr., La Jolla, Calif./La Jolla) (37 seconds) turned the tables in favor of Connecticut prior to the end of the first half as the duo deposited shots to shrink the lead to 9-8 and set the table for the Camels' second half run.
Cress (eight), Heros (five) and McMillan (two) keyed the Connecticut attack with multi-goal games. King, Freitas Pinckert and Porter recorded single games in helping their teams pick-up the victory.
In cage, Matthew Wagman (Jr., Atlanta, Georgia/Willison Northampton) played the majority of the game with seven saves to accompany a single stop by Porter.
For Salem International, Stavrevski led the way with six goals, while Juhas also posted a hat-trick. Kozomara put away a pair with the quartet of Dudok, Popovic, Sebok and Velasco each finding the back of the cage once.
Goalie Andrew Perry (So., San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) took the loss with seven saves.
Salem International will conclude the weekend tournament at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 6, in the MAWPC-West Region Championship's Third Place game against Gannon.
|Connecticut College (11-14)
|Salem International University (8-14)
Salem International Goals: Djordje Stavrevski (6); Robert Juhas (3); Mateo Kozomara (2); Marton Dudok; Milos Popovic; Aaron Sebok; Inigo Velasco
Exclusions: Salem International - 17 ; Connecticut - 15
Advantage Opportunities: Salem International - 6-for-15 ; Connecticut - 11-for-17
Sprints: Salem International - 3-for-4 (1st, 3rd, 4th) ; Connecticut - 1-for-4 (2nd)
Officials: Hadi Farid, Igor Mernenko
RIE, Pa.--Junior All-American Stephan Cress (Rockford, Mich.) erupted with eight goals scored and senior Carlos Heros (Miami, Fla.) finished with five to lead the Connecticut College men's water polo team to a 19-15 comeback victory against Salem International University in the semifinal round of the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference West-Region Championship in Erie, Pa. tonight.
The Camels (11-14), knocked off La Salle earlier in the day. They will square off against Mercyhurst in Sunday's championship match at 1:30 p.m. In their last meeting against the Lakers October 15, Connecticut College secured a 14-13 victory against the Lakers in overtime.
Senior Henry McMillan (Chapel Hill, N.C.) chipped in with two scores in tonight's match. Junior Dylan Pinckert (Long Beach, Calif.), Arturo Freitas (Weston, Fla.), Isaih Porter (La Jolla, Calif.) and Sean King (La Cañada, Calif.) all contributed with goals for Head Coach Matt Anderson's Camels. Junior Matthew Wagman (Atlanta, Ga.) made eight saves for the Camels in tonight's victory.
Connecticut College avenged its 17-12 loss to the Tigers (8-14) last month with tonight's triumph in the Keystone State.
"Tonight was fun," Coach Anderson said. "Watching the team come together this week and the passion that they had as the game went on. They have had an outstanding two games and are really enjoying the fruits of the hard work they have put in. This team has picked the right weekend to be playing their best water polo!"
The Camels trailed 5-2 after one quarter and were down 9-8 at the break. But in the third quarter, Connecticut College out-scored the Tigers 8-4, taking the lead for good when Cress scored with 6:07 remaining. Cress scored three goals in the third and tacked on three more in the fourth for the victors.
With 5:42 remaining in regulation, Cress scored to make it a 17-13 game. The Lakers clawed back to within three just 15 seconds later. After Heros pushed the lead back to 18-14, Salem scored with 4:16 remaining to make it an 18-15 game. But Cress closed out the scoring with 3:14 left and the Camels were able to hold on for the 19-15 victory.