Middlebury edges Big Green water polo

by Greg Holtz | 11/3/04 6:00am

The Dartmouth men's water polo team finished second in the North Atlantic Division of the Collegiate Water Polo Association last weekend, completing its season with nine wins and two losses, both of which came at the hands of a much-improved Middlebury College squad.

The North Atlantic Championship Tournament at Middlebury College began well for Dartmouth, with wins against Bates College and Boston College Saturday. Leading scorers in the two wins were Ryan Goldhahn '04 with seven, Jaren Hayes '06 with six and Mike Bazylewicz, a first-year Dartmouth Medical School student, with four. Twelve of 15 Big Green players found the cage during the two games.

The two wins, both with a score of 18-4, maintained Dartmouth's top-seed heading into Sunday's showdown with rival Middlebury College. The teams had exchanged wins during the first tournament of the season, so both knew they had what it took to capture the championship.

The Big Green came out strong with a quick counter goal by Kemper Diehl '08 only two minutes into the contest. Middlebury's first attempt to answer back was foiled with an unteachable save by goalie Pierce Perotti '06. However, they managed to score during a power play the next possession. Only 20 seconds later, Nick Chukiat '05 put Dartmouth ahead 2-1 on a drive from the wing.

Keeping up with the fast pace, Middlebury tied it less than a minute later with a shot from the near corner. Before the Big Green could rally back, the Panthers scored again with a man-up advantage to pull ahead by one. At the end of the period, Middlebury awarded a 4-meter penalty shot, which they capitalized on to take a 4-2 lead into the second period.

Dartmouth's Jaren Hayes '06 began the second quarter with a powerful outside shot to pull the Big Green within one goal, but Middlebury scored soon after to bring the lead back to two. Tempers flared, and a series of ejections against both teams followed, though neither team could capitalize. With 1:32 left in the half, Goldhahn dominated from the hole, scoring to bring Dartmouth within one goal at halftime.

Starting strong in the second half, Bazylewicz scored on a quick counter-attack to tie the game. The stalemate did not last long, as Middlebury scored again from a man-up advantage. Less than 20 seconds later, Goldhahn put in his second goal of the game to tie it up at six. With time running out in the third period, the Panthers scored on an outside shot and, on the very next possession, were awarded yet another power play.

With the Panther hole set encroaching into the 2-meter zone, goalie Perotti attempted force a turnover by giving a slight tug. However, the Panther growled back with a kick to Perotti's junk, causing him to temporarily go under water and leave the net wide open. Middlebury quickly lobbed it for the score and a two goal lead heading into the final quarter.

Both teams fought hard, but neither could score for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. The Panthers found the net off a slicing cross shot with just over two minutes left to play, stretching their lead to three. The Big Green scrambled to overcome the deficit with Goldhahn scoring again from a beautiful assist from Chukiat to narrow the margin to two with 1:26 left in the game.

Middlebury attempted to kill time, but Bazylewicz shiftily stole the ball and drove coast to coast, only to be fouled in front of the goal. The ensuing successful penalty shot was followed by Goldhahn's fourth goal of the game, finally bring the Big Green within one goal with 17 seconds to play. However, Middlebury was able to hold onto the ball for the final ticks of the clock, outlasting Dartmouth's charge. The narrow 9-8 win gave Middlebury the North Atlantic Championship for 2004.

Coach Jim Wilson described the loss as "unfortunate," and added, ""We knew after the first weekend that this was a much stronger team than in previous years, but we also knew we were the better team."

Dartmouth loses starters Goldhahn and Chukiat this year, as well as newcomer Noah Zandan '05. However, the promising Class of 2008 will buttress the rising sophomores and juniors to avenge this year's loss and clinch the championship next season.

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