Fox and Irwin Net Hat Tricks, No. 19 Men’s Water Polo Tops No. 17 Harvard, 15-9, for Fifth Place in CWPA Eastern Champs
Harvard 4 2 1 2 - 9
Brown 4 4 3 4 - 15
Goals: Fox 3, Irwin 3, Klein 2, Deaver 2, McNamara 2, Villeneuve 1, Culin 1, Smith 1
Saves: Shockley 5
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Junior Henry Fox (Mercer Island, Wash.) and freshman Luke Irwin (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) netted hat tricks to lift the No. 19 Brown men's water polo team to a 15-9 victory over No. 17 Harvard in the Collegiate Water Polo Association Eastern Championships Fifth Place game at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center on Sunday. The Bears went 3-1 during the tournament to finish the season with a 23-13 overall record.
"The most important thing is we wanted to make sure we were prepared for the end of the season because this is where it really matters," said Head Coach Felix Mercado, who led Brown to its third-straight 20-win season. "Hats off to the guys on the team. They stayed focused, but unfortunately we had a bad second quarter against Bucknell. All four games showed the character of the team and what the future holds for us."
Fox bumped his four-game total to 12 goals to land on the All-Tournament First Team two days after earning CWPA Northern Division First Team honors for the second season in a row. The Bears seized fifth place in the CWPA Eastern Championships for the second straight year after defeating Navy, 9-8, in the 2012 Fifth Place battle.
Senior James McNamara (Encino, Calif.) registered two goals and Chris Culin (Danville, Calif.) and Grant Villeneuve (Atherton, Calif.) each had one. Walker Shockley (Diamond Bar, Calif.) made five saves and Eric Robb (Winnetka, Ill.) narrowly missed a last-minute penalty shot to round out the final game for Brown's senior class.
"The seniors understood what they needed to do this year, not just in winning games, but also to build a foundation moving forward," said Mercado, who called a timeout late in the game and removed his five seniors, who left the pool to a standing ovation. Mercado could be seen embracing each senior as they climbed onto the pool deck.
"I had two choices: call a timeout and hug them on the sidelines or I was going to jump in," Mercado said with a laugh. "I think I made the decision that made the most sense. It was nice for them to be recognized, especially at home."
Tied 4-4 at the conclusion of the first quarter after being down 4-2 with 1:31 left in the opening frame, Brown took command of the contest in the second quarter as the Bears outscored the Crimson 4-2 going into halftime for an 8-6 lead at the break.
After halftime, Villeneuve expanded the margin to 9-6 52 seconds into the third quarter. Ben Zepfel got one back for Harvard at 5:08, but man-up score from McNamara and an even-strength strike by junior Nick Deaver (Orinda, Calif.) at 4:38 and 1:37, respectively, made it 11-7 at the conclusion of the third quarter to place the Bears comfortably in the lead.
Deaver, along with sophomore Will Klein (Pasadena, Calif.) and freshman Warren Smith (Dallas, Texas) aided Fox in spearheading the Brown scoring brigade. Mercado acknowledged the significant ability of the underclassmen to score goals, but noted the defense that the Bears will return next season as the team's most valuable asset.
"[The underclassmen] scored a lot of goals but I can't overlook Luke Irwin's improvement and Jake Wyatt (Fr., Corona Del Mar, Calif.) and Matty Gallas (So., Manhattan Beach, Calif.) guarding two meters," Mercado said. "He doesn't score a lot of goals but he's probably the most important player on this team because of the way he can shut down the other team's best player."
Neither team was able to pull away over the first four and a half minutes of the final quarter. Culin pushed the lead to five (12-7) at 5:58, but Zepfel answered at 3:58 with a man-up tally to return the lead at four (12-8). The pattern repeated itself at 3:40 and 3:17 as Fox found the back of the cage at even-strength and Joey Colton responded by converting a six-on-five opportunity to make it 13-9 and keep the Crimson within striking distance.
However, the outcome of the contest was decided 50 seconds after Colton's man-up tally as Smith rattled the iron at 2:27 to increase Brown's lead to 14-9.
Harvard was unable to string together much offense over the final couple of minutes as the Bears' defense stymied the Crimson shooters and Irwin completed a hat-trick with 44 seconds left on the clock for the final factor in a 15-9 victory.
The second half was in marked contrast to the first eight minutes of action during which the Bears fought to keep pace with the Crimson before ultimately settling for a four-all tie at the break.
Sophomore Will Klein (Pasadena, Calif.) opened the scoring in the game as he stuffed a shot past Harvard start Colin Woolway for the ice-breaker 40 seconds into the first quarter. Fox padded the lead to 2-0 with six minutes remaining in the quarter, but the Crimson stormed back on the strength of a shot by Viktor Wrobel and a man-up score by Noah Harrison at the 5:08 and 4:21 marks, respectively.
Harvard continued a 4-0 onslaught against Brown as Colton and John Holland-McCowan connected on natural (2:42) and advantage (1:31) scores to make it 4-2.
Irwin and Klein erased the deficit prior to the conclusion of the quarter as the duo registered natural (1:06) and man-up (36 seconds) scores of their own to balance the scoreboard at four-all after eight minutes of competition.
Klein struck again 57 seconds into the second quarter to return the lead to Brown at 5-4, but it took Blake Lee 14 seconds to post the equalizer for Harvard to keep the teams knotted at five-all.
Brown gained some breathing room as Deaver (4:56), Irwin (4:16) and McNamara (1:24) drilled home back-to-back-to-back markers to engineer an 8-5 lead. Wrobel axed the margin down to 8-6 prior to the halftime horn courtesy a successful extra-man opportunity to set-up the Bears' dominating run to victory in the second half.
Portions of this release courtesy of Collegiate Water Polo Association Communications