U of R Men’s Water Polo Wins Division III National Championship | Holds Off Cal Lutheran 11-6

Image Credit: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
Image Credit: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The University of Redlands Men's Water Polo completed their historic run Sunday in the finals of the USA Water Polo Division III Collegiate National Championships beating California Lutheran University 11-6 to be crowned the 2022 National Champs for the first time in program history.

Redlands finishes the year 17-15, 5-6 SCIAC putting together one of the most incredible seasons in program history.  They entered the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Tournament as the No. 5 seed and defied the odds upsetting both No. 4 Claremont-M-S and No. 1 Pomona-Pitzer.  They then entered the Collegiate National Championships over the weekend as the No. 3 seed and again created fireworks beating No. 2 Johns Hopkins University and No. 1 California Lutheran University.

Heading into Sunday's match-up with the Kingsmen the Bulldogs had lost three straight to CLU, but turned the table on a rainy Sunday afternoon inside the Samuelson Aquatic Center.          

After the first two quarters both teams found themselves in a deadlock and it wouldn't be till the third when the Maroon and Grey pulled away outscoring CLU 4-0 in what proved to be the difference in bringing home the title.   

UR and CLU alternated goals over the first eight minutes with the Bulldogs answering each Kingsmen goal with three of their own. Alec Abrahamian (Glendale, CA) scored a brace and Spencer Clinton (Cypress, CA) scored with four seconds left off a Drake Moody (Camarillo, CA) assist, which was his second of the quarter.

CLU took control of the game in the second where they scored the first two goals of the period and had the first multi-goal lead of the contest, 5-3, with less than 2:30 before halftime. But over the course of :43 seconds the Bulldogs earned a second goal from Clinton and the first from Eamon Greathouse (Bainbridge Island, WA), which in turn tied the game up once again. Spencer Sellwood (Irvine, CA) and Andrew Sorensen (Long Beach, CA) each had assists on both connections as the game was knotted up at the break. 

In the third quarter the Bulldogs dominated the Kingsmen, opening up the first two minutes with a pair of goals from Greathouse and Moody. 

Then after a scoreless spell that spanned almost four minutes UR added their third, moving the score to 8-5 thanks to Greathouse's trifecta. Then with only :22 seconds left in the stanza, Andrew Higginson (San Diego, CA) would convert a penalty that added insurance. The Bulldogs finished out the quarter without allowing a CLU goal for 10:27 as their defense stood tough, while their offense was clicking on all cylinders putting together a 6-0 run dating back to the second.

Moody setup Higginson for a goal at the 6:29 mark of the fourth to make it 10-5. CLU would apply some pressure with a goal, only after being held scoreless for the previous 15:03, but the Bulldogs still led by four, 10-6.  Moody came back and found the back of the net again scoring off a powerplay with 2:53 left, which came off an assist by Higginson, that sealed the win 11-6. 

The Bulldogs got outshot for the game, 36-26, but they were much more efficient, outshooting the Kingsmen .423-.167. Much of the gap in efficiency is thanks to an outstanding performance in goal from Liam Murphy (Placentia, CA) who came up with 18 saves and a .750 save percentage.

Murphy finished the season as the starter during the three SCIAC Tournament games, the National Semifinal, and the Final where he posted a 4-1 record in five starts with 60 saves, a .645 save percentage and only a 4.6 goals-against average (GAA).

Offensively Greathouse netted a hat trick, Abrahamian, Higginson, Moody, and Clinton all added two goals apiece. Higginson led with four assists and Ron Gvishi (Kiryat Tivon, Israel) and Moody each had two.

For the two-game tournament, all four teams played two games, so no advantages, Moody was the leading scorer with eight goals, he also tied for ninth with two assists, and with that won the point-title with 10 points. Greathouse finished fifth with five goals. Gvishi tied for second with five assists. In goal Murphy posted 30 saves, 15 more than second place, a .732 save percentage, .313 better than second place, and a 5.90 GAA, 3.1 better than second place.

The Bulldogs end their 2022 season 17-15 overall and 17-11 against Non-Division I schools. Their 17 wins are the most since 2016 when they won 18. They only had five wins in 2021, a 12-win improvement, their best turnaround from one season to another in program history, and their best since improving by 11 wins in 2013 from 2012.

Redlands will lose their top two keepers in Murphy and Brandon Khalil (Bakersfield, CA), but they return nine of their Top-10 point scorers, only Moody (3rd, 53 points) will be graduating.