Water Polo Splits a Pair of Games at Season Opening Invitational

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. The MIT water polo team split its first two games of the 2010 campaign in the MIT Invitational Tournament at the Zesiger Center Pool on Saturday afternoon. The Engineers dropped a thrilling, sudden-death match to St. Francis, 12-11, before coming back to defeat Cal Lutheran, 9-5, in their second game of the day.

After falling behind early in the first game against St. Francis, Tech struck back with a pair of goals less than a minute apart, by Scott Stephens and Andres Simauchi, to tie things up at two. A late St. Francis marker by Manko Gencic sent the Terriers into the break up by one. The Engineers would outscore St. Francis, 6-3, in the second quarter, including a 4-1 spurt to open the frame, to take an 8-6 lead into halftime.

Alex Mattfolk's goal just under two minutes into the third gave the Cardinal and Gray its largest lead of the day at 9-6. However, St. Francis responded with a pair of tallies to enter the final quarter down just one.

Boris Plavsic scored the equalizer one minute into the final period, knotting the score at nine. The teams would then go over five minutes without a score before Craig Cheney found the back of the net with what appeared to be the game-winner. The slim, one-goal lead would last just 33 seconds before Stefan Gencic beat Columbus Leonard with 1:22 remaining to send the teams into overtime.

St. Francis struck first in the overtime period but Cheney would score his fourth goal of the afternoon to tie the game at 11 and extend the game into sudden-death.

MIT had an excellent man-up opportunity to win the game early in the final frame but St. Francis goalie Nikola Djuric made one of his seven saves to deny the Engineers their first win over the Terriers since 1993. Manko Gencic would net the game-winner just a few minutes later.

Cheney finished with four goals and two assists while John Preis and Scott Stephens chipped in a pair of goals. Alex Mattfolk had a team-high four assists. Leonard stopped 13 shots in the losing effort.

In the second game of the day, MIT and Cal Lutheran battled to a tight, 4-4 halftime score. Tech was able to open up a two-goal lead in the third to enter the final frame leading, 6-4. The Kingsmen would get within one early in the fourth before Andrew Dorne responded with the first of three straight tallies to send the Engineers on the way to their first win of the season.

Cheney and Dorne led the way with three goals each. Despite not finding the scoring column, Brian Gardiner contributed in a number of different ways, leading the team with four assists and also chipping in three steals and a key penalty drawn.

The Engineers will finish out their annual Invitational on Sunday afternoon against the Boston Metro Elite Club team at 4:00 p.m.