Men’s Water Polo Season Ended Early After Great Recovery

Men’s water polo overcame a narrow early loss to solidify a strong placement in South Coast Conference before getting knocked out early in the next regional playoffs

The referee looks on as Luke Noblett (7) overcomes tight coverage and scores a solid goal against the Chaffey College Panthers on Nov. 4.

Hosted by Mt. SAC, the South Coast Conference Tournament served as three home games for the men’s water polo team on Nov. 4 and Nov. 6.

The tournament began with the Mounties opening against the Chaffey Panthers as the first matchup of the day and the pressure was high despite having few in the crowd.

Utility Adam Dow (14) met his first challenger in Chaffey’s Benjamin Dow (2), but reigned supreme over Chaffey’s Dow with four goals.

Both Dows attempted six shots and provided their team with two assists.

Chaffey’s best, Kollin McClanahan (10), scored four goals and provided one assist off of 13 shot attempts. His efforts would be dwarfed by the far more efficient Luke Noblett (7) who provided the team with three assists and four goals off of six shots.

Even more dominant was Mt. SAC’s Aidan Murphy (2) who would not be denied with an assist and seven goals off of nine shots.

Mt. SAC would dominate the entire game going 6-3 in the first quarter, 8-3 in the second, 13-4 in the third and closing out the game 18-7.

They would then face a familiar foe that had bested them in the regular season by a mere two points.

Aidan Murphy (2) sends a quick pass against the Cerritos Falcons on Nov. 4. (Joshua Sanchez)

This matchup, however, would be even more of a gut punch than the original 9-7 loss away at the Cerritos Falcons’ aquatic center.

They looked strong and determined to serve the Falcons with a dish of their own medicine and took a lead immediately to end the quarter 2-1. While both teams knew it would be a close game, the momentum stayed with the Mounties as the first half ended 4-3 and the third quarter ended 7-5.

With Trevor Ingersoll (13) having a solid performance alongside Diego Lopez (9), Dow, Noblett and Murphy, it looked like the Mounties would close out the game 9-7 themselves.

Then the fourth quarter brought the whole pool down.

Goalkeeper Noah Stark (1) had no answer for two straight goals and allowed the Falcons to tie the game at 7-7 and after every subsequent point Murphy put on the board.

Tied at 9-9 with five seconds left in the game, a heartbreaker came in from Cerritos’ Mario Vanzillotta (7) to end the game in the worst way for Mt. SAC.

With that heartbreaker, the squad played for third place against the Rio Hondo Roadrunners on Nov. 6.

Luke Noblett (7) prepares for a scoring drive against the Rio Hondo Roadrunners on Nov. 6. (Joshua Sanchez)

The atmosphere was different for this game. After being deflated on the cusp of glory, it was a quieter matchup. Mt. SAC would lead 2-0 after the first quarter, 4-0 after the first half and 6-0 after the third quarter with Noblett scoring half of those goals alone.

Stark looked exhausted for the last quarter of the game and it showed as the Roadrunners put up four points while the Mounties added two more.

Regardless, Mt. SAC won 8-4 and secured third place in the South Coast Conference and locked in their initial position from the regular season.

In the SoCal Regional Playoffs, they had an early exit against the Grossmont Griffins in a high scoring 8-13 loss. They were toe to toe until the half, but eventually Grossmont outscored the Mounties with five points a quarter in the second half.

The Griffins would go on to play the winner of the South Coast Conference, the Long Beach Vikings, and win before falling to Saddleback and settling for a third place finish. Saddleback also ousted the Falcons on its rise to finish second in the region.

Aside from this postseason performance, the men’s water polo team turned around a losing season and made something out of it. With a 12-17 record from losing their first nine straight games in a row, they really turned it around to go 5-3 in the conference.

Their entire freshman squad will return – as their only sophomore is Tate Cauley (18) – and that is bad news for the rest of the South Coast Conference. The Falcons have several players already in their sophomore year of eligibility, including their game winning scorer Vanzillotta, so future rematches will be interesting for this growing rivalry.