By John M. Sherrard
(Walnut, CA) Welcome to Southern California! Two Eastern NCAA Division I men's water polo teams, making a So Cal swing, stopped by Mt. SAC's Marie T. Mills Aquatics Center Thursday for a doubleheader against Mt. SAC.
The result? A split.
The first of two games against La Salle, a newcomer to Division I, the Mounties (12-7) handled the Explorers 11-7. The nitecap saw Fordham University, a 50-year Division I competitor, defeat the Mounties 18-9.
"This is why we set these games up to set us up for our remaining conference games against Cerritos and Long Beach," Mt. SAC Men's Water Polo coach Marc Ruh said. "It was just a really good experience for us."
All in all the Mounties have played eight Division I, II or III teams this season.
Mt. SAC just returned from the east and played five, four-year university teams. The Mounties also played Cal Tech earlier in the season.
"The great thing is that our administration is so supportive of us and allowing us to take those trips," Ruh added.
Mt. SAC 11, La Salle 7
Leading the Mounties was sophomore utility Nick Perez (3 steals) with four goals on five shots followed by sophomore driver Roman Aceres (3 steals) and freshman utility Matt Rauch (2 steals) with three each.
The game was a see-saw battle throughout the first half with a 4-4 tie after two periods.
Perez led the Mounties with two of his four goals in the first half. Aceres also scored twice for the Mounties in the period.
"It's a lot more physical playing these teams then our conference games," Perez said. "Last week (Eastern trip) the teams were physical and that helped us playing in the Chaffey (19-15 win) game this week.
"I've just been in good position for some goals so far and a lot of them have been set up by Roman."
The Mounties opened up a three-goal lead after the third period 8-5 with Perez scoring twice.
The Mounties pulled away in the fourth period when Rauch scored three times, including a steal and a score with 1:17 left for the three-goal, 10-7 lead. Aceres finished off La Salle with a goal with 28 seconds left for the 11-7 score.
Mt. SAC freshman goalie Jake Simmons made 21 saves in the game, many of which came by the way of his wide, outstretched arms.
"Jake (Simmons) is making great adjustments and he's starting to open a little bit and communicating very well," said Ruh of his 6-9 freshman goalie.
Fordham 18, Mt. SAC 9
Leading the Mounties was Aceres and Rauch with three each.
Mt. SAC has played Fordham a few times through the years mostly due to the closeness Ruh has with the longtime Rams coach, Bill Harris. Fordham jumped out to a three-goal lead in the first, 3-0 and never could catch them the remainder of the way.
"I think we did pretty good against Fordham, even though the score doesn't show it," Perez said.
Rauch scored two of his three goals in the second period to help close the gap to 4-3 Fordham early in the period. That was the closest the Mounties would get to the Rams.
Fordham and La Salle both are in So Cal for a tournament at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.
Follow Mt. SAC Men's Water Polo on twitter @mtsacaquatics
For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.