Stags Upset Top Ranked Poets To Reach Championship Game

Stags Upset Top Ranked Poets To Reach Championship Game

Claremont, CA - After a tumultuous season riddled with highs and lows, the Stags came into the annual SCIAC Championship tournament ranked fifth out of eighth, their worst seeding since Coach Greg Lonzo began his tenure here at CMS. The Road to the Championship pitted CMS against three teams that had beaten them in the regular season.

Round 1, (No. 4) California Lutheran Kingsmen - Friday night's final game pitted the fifth ranked Stags against the fourth ranked Cal Lutheran Kingsmen. The game started out with CMS jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, but Cal Lu jumped right back into it scoring one and then the two sides traded goals to put the score at 3-2 after quarter one. The Kingsmen came out with a four goal quarter in the second, to which the Stags could only answer two. At the half, the host Stags trailed by one, 6-5.  The Stags showed resilience and composure to weather the storm, and in the second half the host team brought on an onslaught shutting the Kingsmen out in the third and then winning the fourth quarter by a tally of 3-2 to bring the final score to 10-8.

Round 2, (No. 1) Whittier Poets - The CMS Stags came into their Saturday match-up against a team that they had just barely lost to in the regular season with hopes of spoiling the Poets' perfect season and SCIAC Championship hopes.  The Poets jumped out to an early lead on a man up advantage and then a defensive miscommunication to put the home team down 2-0 late in the first quarter. With one possession remaining in the quarter the Stags came down and looked to enter the ball into the center, but with no drop and time waning down, senior Captain Jake Richardson (Belmont) stepped into the pocket and opened up scoring for the Stags netting a goal with just three seconds remaining in the quarter.

The next quarter saw a similar breakdown with each team netting one to push the score to 3-2. The first half had all but evaporated when sophomore Vince Schiavoni (Malvern, PA) broke free down the pool with a ball-side drive. Looking up at the clock and working unsuccessfully for the foul, Schiavoni finally leaped out for a last second desperation backhand that befuddled senior All-America goalkeeper Casey Reghr of Whittier and tied the score 3-3 as time expired.

With the momentum on the side of the Stags coming out of halftime, they came out and jumped on Whittier with two more goals from freshmen standouts and starters Brian Baier (Orinda) and Greg Mann (Hillsborough). However, just as the quarter was winding down, the Poets returned the favor by netting a 6-on-4 goal to tighten the lead back up to one.

Entering the fourth quarter ahead by one against the undefeated Whittier College Poets (No.1 DIII, No.1 SCIAC) the Stags knew that they would need their best team effort on both sides of the ball to pull off the upset. As time ran down, the talented Poet side managed to tie the game with under five minutes remaining. However, on the ensuing possession, junior Two-Meter man Greg Sanford (Newport Beach) turned his defender and skipped a bar in to pull the Stags ahead 6-5. The remainder of the game was riddled with excitement as each side saw its share of opportunities just narrowly miss, including an impressive backhand sweep shot by Baier pulled down by an equally impressive save from Reghr. With 30 seconds to play and a 10 second differential between the shot clock and the game clock, a miscommunication led to a turnover and a kickout against sophomore Ari Wes (Mercer Island, WA) whose play had been outstanding all game. With 15 seconds remaining and the whole of Axelrood Pool with their hearts in their throats, the Poets staged a last ditch effort that missed just high and the Stags grabbed the rebound to advance to the SCIAC Championships for the first time in almost a decade.

Round 3, (No. 2) Redlands Bulldogs - The final game of the 2009 SCIAC Championship pitted the perennial powerhouse Redlands Bulldogs against the underdog story of the Tournament, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags. The game opened up with nearly a full quarter of scoreless play before Junior All-American Andrew Cosentino (Greenwich, CT) opened up scoring for the Stags with a cross cage lob shot that easily beat keeper Teddy Trowbridge of Redlands. However, the Bulldogs came back with an answer. A goal late in the quarter tied the tally at 1 all heading into the 2nd.

At the outset of the second quarter, Redlands netted two goals to take a 3-1 lead. The bulldogs would maintain this lead for the remainder of the game. In the third quarter, the Stags appeared to be on the brink of a rally as Cosentino netted the only other CMS goal on a counter attack assisted by Sophomore Vincent Schiavoni (Malvern, PA).

Once again, however, the Bulldogs had an answer. On the heels of the CMS goal, Redlands came down and netted what would be the final goal of the game, pushing the score to 4-2. While both sides would see their share of opportunities, neither managed to add another tally, keeping the score fixed at the abnormally low 4-2 posted in the third quarter. The Bulldogs were led by Miran Terzic's two goals.

With this second place finish in the tournament, the Stags finish tied for third in the overall SCIAC standings and also tied for third in the Division III national rankings, the Stags highest finish since Coach Greg Lonzo joined the staff three years ago.