By John M. Sherrard
(Erie, PA) Five Universities, three days, five games! The Mt. SAC Men's Water Polo team took a whirlwind trip playing five university teams on a trip to Pennsylvania and West Virginia last Friday September 29 through Sunday October1.
Scoring 11 goals each in the five games was sophomore driver Roman Aceres and freshman utility Matt Rauch.
"It was a great weekend for us," Mt. SAC Men's Water Polo coach Marc Ruh said. "We visited five different college campuses and learned a great deal about each college and water polo."
"Our 1-4 record against NCAA teams does not reflect the amount of learning that took place. I think we are a much stronger team now, for having spent that time together. The kids are exhausted, but stronger, smarter and a better team because of it."
In the five games the Mounties only had two subs in the three days of games.
The team also took in a cross-town football game between Gannon University and Mercyhurst as well as a minor league hockey game.
After the teams' arrival on Thursday, they played two games on Friday.
Salem 17, Mt. SAC 10
The first game was at Salem University at the SIU Natatorium on the West Virginia campus.
Rauch and freshman driver Aiden O'Neil led the team with three goals each.
Trailing 7-2 at the half, the Mounties behind goals from O'Neil and freshman utility Christian Martinez in the third, trailed 13-4 entering the final period.
Mt. SAC outscored Salem 6-4 in the final period with three goals from Rauch, two from O'Neil and a solo goal from sophomore utility Nicholas Perez.
Penn St. Behrend 11, Mt. SAC 8
The second game on Friday was at Penn State Behrend in Erie, PA.
Aceres and Rauch led the Mounties in scoring with three and two respectively.
Trailing 4-0 late in the opening period, Rauch scored an even-strength goal on a pass from Martinez to get on the board.
The Mounties fell behind 7-2 in the second period, but three late unanswered goals to end the period put Mt. SAC back in the game. With 1:50 remaining Aceres scored an even-strength goal, followed a minute later with a penalty shot by Aceres, to trail 7-4.
O'Neil scored with just 14 seconds left to close within two goals, 7-5 at the half.
Mt. SAC was held without a goal in the third period, as they took six shots. Behrend added two more goals to take a four-goal lead into the final period, 9-5.
After a goal by Behrend for the 10-5 lead the Mt. SAC mounted one last comeback with three consecutive goals by sophomore utility Adrian Hernandez (5:59), Rauch (4:06) and Perez (2:02), to close within two, 10-8.
Gannon University 15, Mt. SAC 6
The team again played two more games on Saturday, with the first at Gannon University in Erie, PA.
Trailing 2-1 late in the first period Perez tied the game 2-2 on an assist from Hernandez with 47 seconds left.
But that was the last time the Mounties would be tied, as Gannon scored two early goals in the second period before freshman utility Thomas Carney brought the Mounties within one goal, 4-3 with 5:09 left in the half.
Gannon then went on a 9-0 run to take a commanding 13-4 lead with 2:10 left in the third, before O'Neil could score and trail 13-4.
Hernandez and Perez added goals in the final period for the Mounties.
Mercyhurst 12, Mt. SAC 8
The second game, also in Erie at Mercyhurst University was a close, 12-8 loss. Aceres and Perez each score three goals, while three players had two each – Rauch, O'Neil and sophomore utility Adrian Hernandez.
Mercyhurst jumped out to a 5-2 lead after one period and led at the half, 9-5. O'Neil, Aceres and Hernendez scored a goal each in the period.
Mercyhurst pulled away in the second half outscoring the Mounties, 9-7.
Mt. SAC 14, Washington & Jefferson 11
The final game of the trip on Sunday was at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA, as the Mounties came away with the win.
The leading goal scorers were Rauch and Perez with four and three goals respectively. Hernandez led the team with three steals.
Mt. SAC took a 3-1 lead in the first period and led until 3:20 left in the fourth period when Washington and Jefferson took a 10-9 lead. There were four ties in the period.
O'Neil and Rauch each scored twice in the final period, with Rauch tying the game at 11-11 with 2:30 left. Three consecutive goals by the Mounties put the game away, including a goal by freshman goalie Jake Simmons with 3 seconds left in the game.
In the five games Simmons made 64 saves to add to his California-leading total of 260 saves.
The Mounties continue South Coast Conference action this Wednesday October 4 at Chaffey then host two university teams this Thursday. They will play LaSalle at 5:00 and Fordham at 7:00 pm.
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.