Water Polo finishes fourth in nation

by The Dartmouth | 11/17/98 6:00am

In a series of tightly contested, and at times, controversial matches, the Dartmouth Men's Water Polo Team battled to a fourth place finish in the Collegiate Club National Championships held at Miami University of Ohio last weekend.

Entering the tournament as the third-ranked team in the nation, but seeded first based on last year's National Championship, the Big Green secured a berth in the semi-final with wins over the University of Washington and Tufts University before falling to eventual champion Michigan and then Colorado.

Washington was a real question mark for Dartmouth.

"We'd never seen them play before and only knew that they were ranked sixth, just a couple spots behind us, so we were worried that they might be better than everyone thought," Derek Sollar '00 said.

Washington did prove to be a force, scoring on their first possession just 16 seconds into the game. Dartmouth's signature defense quickly woke up, however, allowing Doug Morton '99 to tie the score at one a piece shortly thereafter. Dartmouth took its first lead of the game in the second quarter when co-captain Ken Kriwanek '99 blasted a shot right over the head of the Husky net-minder on a man-up advantage. The Big Green then went on to build a tenuous 5-3 lead through three quarters.

The real drama began in the fourth quarter when Dartmouth goalie Matt Nelson '00, who had played well to that point, let a two-point shot slip through his fingers. Washington and Dartmouth continued to trade goals until the Huskies went up by a goal with just 22 seconds remaining. Dartmouth coach Jim Wilson called a time-out to design a play. In the final seconds, hole-set Kriwanek connected with a slashing Tyler Wilson '02 for the tying goal, sending the game into overtime.

In the overtime, the Big Green jumped out early with a monster two-point shot from David Martin '00. Kriwanek sealed the victory with two goals of his own in the last two minutes.

A 12-7 win over Tufts on Saturday morning moved the Big Green into the semifinals. Saturday night was the match-up that Dartmouth had been waiting for against top-ranked Michigan. The Wolverines came into the tournament with a stunning 25-1 record. Their only blemish was a 9-7 loss to Dartmouth during a tournament held at Navy earlier this year.

Michigan came into the game very ready to play, with tough pressure defense all over the pool, and a designated defender on Big Green hole-set Kriwanek. Dartmouth's defense was strong as always, holding the high-powered Wolverine offense to only two goals a quarter. Unfortunately, the breaks didn't go Dartmouth's way as they could only muster four goals of their own in the game, and the Big Green fell 8-4.

That semi-final loss and an upset of Colorado in the other semi-final game set up a rematch of last year's final between Dartmouth and the University of Colorado. The game quickly turned into a shoot-out with the lead see-sawing back and forth.

Dartmouth got on the board first with a penalty shot goal by Kriwanek after a foul committed on a driving Utsumi, but Colorado roared back with its amazing outside shooting ability. Every time Dartmouth took the lead, Colorado managed another two-pointer, totaling four for the game.

At one point in the third quarter it looked as if Dartmouth had no chance with Colorado up 9-7 and Dartmouth's offense stagnating, but co-Captain Danny Alfonso '99 brought the Big Green right back into things with a no-look two-point shot on a man-up advantage. Colorado countered with a two-pointer of its own, but Dartmouth clawed its way back late in the third and fourth quarters building a 13-11 lead.

With the Big Green leading by one, Colorado scored a controversial two-point shot to recapture the lead. On its last possession, Dartmouth tried the same play that worked against Washington, but the Buffaloes knocked down the pass to preserve a 15-14 victory.