PASADENA, Calif. (Sept. 5, 2015) – The Caltech men's water polo team opened the 2015 season with a win over Grossmont College in the second match of the Whittier Open on Head Coach Jon Bonafede's first day of collegiate competition Saturday afternoon.
Caltech scored four goals in each quarter to edge out the Griffins, 16-15, after falling to the Division III No. 1 Poets, 18-6, in the morning. Junior Christopher Bradley (Half Moon Bay, Calif. / Serra) tallied 10 goals on 22 attempts over the pair of games, while senior James Blackwood (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. / Palos Verdes Peninsula) recorded four goals and seven assists and senior Patric Eck (Fullerton, Calif. / Troy) added five goals with three assists.
RV/No. 1 Whittier 18, Caltech 6
The Beavers made their presence known from the outset in the first game, winning the opening sprint and ripping a dangerous shot on the first possession. Whittier would open the scoring on a man-up opportunity at the 6:17 mark, but Bradley equalized three minutes later. The Poets rattled off back-to-back goals before the end of the first quarter, however, and built up their lead to 8-1 late in the second. Caltech still had some fight left before halftime as Blackwood and Bradley netted once apiece in the final two minutes to keep the Beavers in striking distance at 8-3.
The Poets dominated the third quarter, scoring four unanswered goals to surge ahead, 12-3, and led by as many as 13 at 17-4 with just 1:21 remaining in the game. Caltech was able to make one final stand down the stretch, with Blackwood netting the Beavers' fourth and Bradley closing it out with a pair of final-minute goals.
"We got off to a great start – the guys looked really good and we managed to keep the first quarter close," Bonafede said. "We did an amazing job driving and drawing kickbacks, and although we need to be able to convert on more of them, I was very happy with our performance."
Freshmen Charles Ross (Wexford, Pa. / North Allegheny) and John Lloyd (San Diego, Calif. / Torrey Pines) made five and six saves, respectively, in one half of work apiece. Sophomore Henry Baer (Lafayette, Calif. / Acalanes) chipped in with an assist and won both his sprints, while Eck and Bradley combined for 12 of the team's 15 exclusions drawn.
Caltech 16, Grossmont 15
Caltech jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind goals from junior Tomas Tussie (Weston, Fla. / Cypress Bay) and Bradley. Grossmont's Jack Casey took over with a two-minute hat trick to put the Griffins ahead, but Blackwood equalized for the Beavers on the next possession. Grossmont would score two more to move back ahead, with Eck netting a buzzer-beater to make it a one-goal game after the first quarter.
Grossmont padded its lead with the opening goal of the second quarter, but Eck, Blackwood and Tussie each scored on three straight possessions to take Caltech ahead once again. The Griffins responded by scoring five goals to the Beavers' one over the rest of the quarter and start of the third to lead by four at 12-8.
With the game in danger of getting out of hand, the veteran quartet of Blackwood, Bradley, Tussie and Eck stepped up to score once apiece against a lone Grossmont goal to trail by one heading into the fourth quarter. Bradley leveled for Caltech on a man-up opportunity on the first possession of the quarter, but Casey came up with two more goals to all but put the game out of reach. Yet as he so often did last season, Bradley came through in the clutch with another two goals of his own to tie the game at 15-15. Both teams fought desperately for the eventual game-winner in the waning minutes, as evidenced by the pair of exclusions and turnovers. Eck came through for Caltech at the 1:55 mark and the Beavers defense locked down over the last two minutes, forcing a turnover on Grossmont's final possession to seal the victory.
"Another great start and we battled back and forth for the entire game," Bonafede said. "Down four approaching the fourth quarter, our veterans really stepped up by scoring, driving and defending to lead us to victory."
Lloyd and Ross made seven and nine stops, respectively, once again in a half of work each. Bradley had a hand in 10 goals with six of his own and four assists, while Blackwood registered a career-high six assists. Tussie led an efficient offense with his three goals coming on just four attempts, while Eck was 5-for-9 and Bradley 6-for-13. Baer and Bradley won two sprints apiece.
Bonafede and the Beavers will hit the pool again next weekend for the Citrus College Tournament, where they will play two games on both Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 12. Their opening game will be against the host Owls at 1:30 p.m., with the remaining opponents and times to be determined by the results of the first round of games.