THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – One day after opening SCIAC play the Cal Lutheran water polo team returned to their home venue to begin a string of non-conference matches. The Kingsmen defeated Division II Mercyhurst 8-6 today.
The teams opened up scoring goal-for-goal. Spencer McGrath got things started and Dejan Novakovic also found the back of the net in the first quarter. CLU capitalized on a fast break by George Hong, which set up Kyle Norheim who pump faked before lobbing the ball into the top right corner of the net to knot things up at 3-3 with four seconds to play in the opening stanza.
CLU controlled the second quarter, scoring a pair while holding the Lancers off the board. The first came from set when Max Zappas, who was being targeted all half, spun and fired off a behind the back shot that gave CLU a 4-3 edge. McGrath fed Zappas the pass and was credited with the assist.
Novakovic added to the lead late in the quarter when he converted a five-meter shot into the fifth Kingsmen goal of the game. CLU led 5-3 at halftime.
After the break the Lancers cut the deficit to a goal, but CLU still had a 7-6 edge entering the final frame.
Carter Baldwin had a pair of steals on back to back Mercyhurst possessions in the third and then drew an ejection to set up the 6-on-5 for CLU with 3:48 to play. Though the Kingsmen were unable to convert it, Baldwin did spark the next Cal Lutheran score. As the shot clock wound down at the 2:00 mark, he fired off a shot that caught the cross bar, but Derrick Graham was there to punch the ball into the back of the net for the goal.
Zappas added his second behind the back goal in the quarter as well. Mercyhurst countered with a goal in similar fashion.
CLU, however, clung to that one-goal advantage after the first 24 minutes of action.
The final period saw just one more score, which came by way of Novakovic, who recorded a hat-trick to lead all players.
Zappas was the only other player with multiple goals today. Hong handed out a pair of assists while Novakovic and McGrath also each dished one out.
Zappas and Hunter Hamaker each drew a pair of ejections for the Kingsmen. CLU finished with eight as a team.
Defensively, the Kingsmen stepped up.
“Any time you can hold a team to six goals, with three in the first quarter, it is a good day,” head coach Craig Rond said after the game.
Baldwin finished with four steals to lead the squad, while McGrath added three. Novakovic and Nathan Ortega came away with two steals apiece as well. Additionally, CLU had a pair of field blocks with both Ortega and Kyle Norheim recording one.
In front of the cage, Danny Mock made 13 saves and also grabbed a loose ball for a steal.
The victory pushes the CLU win-streak to five.
Cal Lutheran (7-6) travels to the Claremont Convergence Tournament, which has been renamed the Gary Troyer Tournament, this weekend. CLU will play Penn State Behrend and Iona at 11:00 a.m. and 5:40 p.m., respectively. Both games on Friday will be played at the Axelrood Pool on the campus of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.