CMS Men's Water Polo Defeats Fresno Pacific, Falls to Pomona-Pitzer at Triton Invitational

CJ Box had three goals on the day, including two in a 7-4 win over Fresno Pacific
CJ Box had three goals on the day, including two in a 7-4 win over Fresno Pacific

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's water polo team broke into the win column with a 7-4 victory over Fresno Pacific in its final match of the UC San Diego Triton Invitational on Sunday, after falling to local rival Pomona-Pitzer 8-5 in its first match of the day.

The Stags conclude their opening tournament at 1-3, and with plenty of encouragement for the season ahead. Before picking up the win over Fresno Pacific, CMS fell 12-2 to No. 9 UC San Diego in its opener on Saturday morning, but then battled No. 13 UC Irvine down to the wire in an 8-7 defeat yesterday, and had a close defeat to No. 19 Pomona-Pitzer (No. 1 in Division III) earlier on Sunday.

Junior center CJ Box had a pair of goals to lead the way offensively in the win over Fresno Pacific, while sophomore Noah Smith had a strong match in goal with 12 saves, allowing only four goals, including only one in the second half (and none in the fourth quarter). 

CMS never trailed after jumping out to a 2-0 lead, as Box opened the scoring just 1:04 into the contest and senior Zack Rossman tallied a goal at the 4:08 mark. The goal gave Rossman at least one goal in all four contests this weekend, including both in the opener against No. 9 UC San Diego. 

After the Sunbirds got back within a goal, Harrison Miller found the back of the net to put CMS ahead 3-1, which is where the score remained heading into the second period. Fresno Pacific closed to within 4-3 at the half, with Box scoring his second to account for the Stag goal. Junior Andrew Wraith scored his third goal of the day (after two against Pomona-Pitzer earlier) with 3:03 left in the third, before the Sunbirds closed to within 5-4 with 1:46 showing on the third-quarter clock. 

That would be the last goal of the contest for Fresno Pacific, though, as CMS was able to score twice more in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Junior Nick Britt had an insurance goal with 5:51 to go and sophomore Will Clark capped off the scoring with 4:32 to go. 

In the opening match at noon, CMS cut a four-goal deficit in the fourth quarter down to two goals twice, but No. 19 Pomona-Pitzer was able to hold on and take an 8-5 win over the Stags. Senior Ethan Lewis led CMS with two goals on the day, while junior Rob Driscoll, Rossman and Box each added one. 

Driscoll got CMS on the board with 1:50 left in the first quarter to tie the score at 1-1, which would turn out to be the only goal of the first half for the Stags, as Pomona-Pitzer took a 3-1 lead into halftime. CMS came right out of the locker room and scored a goal on its first possession, with Lewis putting home his first of the contest to make it a 3-2 game. 

The Sagehens stretched their lead out to 6-2 with 6:05 left in the contest, before CMS was able to make a move and put some pressure on the Sagehens. Rossman scored on the ensuing CMS possession to close within 6-3 and Wraith converted his second with 3:39 left. The Stags had a 6-on-5 with a chance to cut the deficit to one, but were unable to convert and Pomona-Pitzer followed with an insurance goal with 2:22 to go.

Box answered back to keep it interesting at 7-5 with 1:58 to go, but the Stags had an exclusion and Pomona-Pitzer was able to take advantage of the extra man opportunity, sealing the win with 1:32 left on the third goal from Dylan Eliot. 

CMS will next be in action for its first home matches of the season on Saturday, when it takes on Concordia at 9 a.m. and No. 1 ranked USC at 12 p.m. at Axelrood Pool as part of the Inland Empire Classic. The Stags will also take on Fresno Pacific and No. 7 UC Santa Barbara on Sunday at La Verne as part of the tournament.