CLAREMONT, CA. – The Pomona-Pitzer Men's Water Polo prevailed in a gritty SCIAC Semifinal showdown with the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen, winning 15-8. After a tough first half, the Sagehens managed to find their spark on offense in the second half and closed the match strong. Freshman Sam Sasaki, coming off a First Team All-SCIAC season, led the team with five goals and two assists while James Kelbert had a standout performance at goal with 12 saves.
Season Impact: The Sagehens' undefeated SCIAC run extends into the postseason as they will now reach the SCIAC Championship match for the third straight season.
The Sagehens' defense set the tone in the opening half as the team managed to frustrate the Kingsmen with some forced turnovers while James Kelbert held down the post with seven first half saves. Adam Ward got the Sagehens on board with a close range shot to take a 1-0 lead with 5:55 left in the first period. The Kingsmens' defense did a great job forcing the Sagehens into difficult shots as the home side pushed to find the second goal. WIth 2:52 left in the period, Joseph Schafer scored the second goal after a shot from mid-distance to make it 2-0, but the Kingsmen cut the lead in half 17 seconds later thanks to a goal by Tanner Kaplan. With 1:31 left in the period, James Kelbert heaved a long pass to the racing Zach Senator after a save and Senator finished the cherry pick to make it 3-1. However, in the final three seconds of the period Kyle Crist of Cal Lutheran flung a spinning shot after grabbing an offensive rebound to cut the deficit 3-2.
After the Kingsmen tied the game in the second period, the Sagehens responded with a goal by Sam Sasaki with 6:33 remaining in the half. The Sagehens scored again two minutes later when Sam Sasaki found Dylan Elliott on a power play and the latter scored at close range to take a 5-3 lead. Pomona-Pitzer's defense held onto the narrow lead as they couldn't pull away at halftime.
In the second half, the Sagehens' offense found its spark and Elliott scored the opening goal of the half to lead 6-3. Sam Sasaki got his second assist of the game after finding Jacob Niskey to make it 7-3. After the Sagehens built a 9-4 lead, the Kingsmen refused to go down quietly, scoring two straight goals to make it 9-6. However, Adam Ward silenced the rally with a goal in the final minute of the period thanks to a well-placed pass by Adam Gross.
The Sagehens pulled away in the fourth period, scoring two straight to start it off. Dillon Goldsmith scored to cut the lead 12-7 with 6:23 remaining, but the Sagehens tallied three straight goals to put the game out of reach.
Up Next: The Sagehens will host cross-street rival Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for the SCIAC Final on Sunday, November 18 at 11:00 a.m.