The Santa Monica College Men's Water Polo team defeated 4th seeded Ventura College 10-7 in the first round of the Western State Conference Water Polo Tournament on Wednesday. The Corsair's victory avenges a regular season 8-7 loss to the Pirates. Wednesday's game was a close contest with SMC using a strong third quarter to take control of the game.
Both teams came out flying offensively in a high scoring first quarter. Sophomore Musashi Saito started the scoring for the Corsairs less than in a minute into the game but his goal was quickly followed by two goals within the next minute for Ventura. Freshman Isai Elias answered eleven seconds later to tie the game 2-2. After the initial barrage both teams settled into the rhythm of the game with freshman Alan Vogelaar scoring with 56 seconds left in the quarter to cap with Ventura leading 4-3 at the end of the first.
SMC struggled offensively during the second quarter and got into some foul trouble with top defender Elijah Graves picking up two fouls and having to come out of the game. Fortunately, freshman goalie Jerolim Ashby (16 saves and 5 steals on the game) kept the Corsairs close and Elias' second goal of the game brought the score to 5-4 Ventura at the half.
With Graves back in the game, the Corsairs came out with a renewed sense of purpose and began to shut down the Pirates. Goals by leading scorer Quinn Godfredsen, Saito, and Graves plus a strong defensive effort gave the Corsairs a 7-5 lead going into the fourth and final quarter.
Though SMC had control of the game, Ventura would not go quietly. They battled back and tied the game at 7 with 2:35 remaining. SMC needed someone to step up and make a play, and their Captain Saito was the one to do it. Saito scored the go-ahead and winning goal on the next possession. Feeling reenergized by the goal the Corsairs got pivotal stops down the stretch, Elias added his third goal, and Godfredsen his second to put the game away.
SMC will now move on to the semi-finals to take on top seeded (and state wide 2nd ranked) L.A. Valley College on Friday at 12:15 pm at Citrus College. The Corsairs will finish the tournament on Saturday at Citrus in either the Championship or 3rd place game against either Cuesta College or Citrus College who play in the other semi-final.