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CLAREMONT, Calif. — Dylan Elliott scored eight times to lead the way as No. 16-ranked/Division III No. 1/host Pomona-Pitzer Colleges engineered a 13-7 victory over Division III No. 8 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at home in Haldeman Pool to punch the Sagehens’ ticket to the 2021 USA Water Polo Division III National Collegiate Championship title game.

Pomona-Pitzer will face fellow Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) institution Division III No. 2 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 1:00 p.m. Pacific/4:00 p.m. Eastern for the second USA Water Polo Division III Championship.  In 2019, tournament host Whittier College topped Claremont-Mudd-Scripps by a 5-3 score on December 8 to garner the inaugural crown.  The event was not contested during the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Northeast Water Polo Conference (NWPC) member MIT will meet Division III No. 5 Johns Hopkins University at 11:00 a.m. Pacific/1:00 p.m. Pacific in the Third Place game.  MIT previously fell to JHU of the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) in sudden death overtime by an 11-10 score on October 24 at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division III Eastern Championship title game.

Overall, MIT is 1-0 against Hopkins in Division III National Championship competition as the Engineers picked up a 20-13 win during the Third Place game of the inaugural event at Whittier on December 8, 2019.

MIT jumped on the scoreboard first in the game as Kyle Sandell finished a pass form Miller Geschke 56 seconds into the game to beat netminder Kellan Grant and stake the visitors to a 1-0 margin. 

The lead was short-lived, however, as Elliott converted a six-on-five opportunity at 6:40 off an assist from Sam Sasaki to beat goalie Colin Weaver and square the squads at one-all.  Elliott struck again at 6:02 by firing home a pass from Keegan Coleman with both teams at even-strength to push the Sagehens ahead 2-1.  Elliott completed a hat-trick with 3:16 remaining on the first quarter clock as he lined in a pass from Sam Sasaki to build Pomona-Pitzer’s lead to 3-1 by the conclusion of the opening frame.

Elliott continued his one-man assault with 6:07 left in the second quarter by cashing in on a man-up chance to make the score 4-1.   Elliott added his team’s fifth strike at 5:01 by flushing a centering pass from Ben Sasaki as the Sagehens continued to pull away.

Kyle Green snapped Elliott’s scoring spree at 4:37 by netting Pomona-Pitzer’s sixth goal to expand the lead to 6-1 and force an MIT timeout.  However, the Engineers were unable to take advantage of the break as Adam Gross twirled in a helper from Ben Sasaki at 2:57 on another man-up bid to widen the gap between the teams to 7-1.

Ben Sasaki went from helper to scorer with 35 seconds left in the first half by rifling in a shot off an assist from Coleman as Pomona-Pitzer acquired an 8-1 spread heading into halftime.

Elliott awoke from his temporary scoring slumber 39 seconds into the third quarter as he cashed in on a man-up chance via an assist from Ben Sasaki as the Sagehens ticked off another marker for a 9-1 lead.  Ben Sasaki and Elliott hooked up again at 6:14 for a natural tally as Pomona-Pitzer broke into double-digits with a 10-1 margin.

Sandell snapped a 17:09 scoring drought by MIT as he sliced in a pass from Richard Yun at the 5:55 mark to inch the Engineers back to within eight at 10-2.  The duo traded positions in the scoring column at 3:58 as Yun put away a feed from Sandell for a natural strike to make it a 10-3 game.

MIT continued to rally back as John Steele uncorked a shot into the cage off a pass from Geschke with 44 seconds left in the third quarter to cut Pomona-Pitzer’s lead to six at 10-4.  The margin returned to seven goals before the conclusion of the quarter as Sam Sasaki fired in a man-up goal via an assist from Patrick Hughes with 14 ticks left on the clock to set the scoreboard at 11-4 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.

Grant exited the cage for Pomona-Pitzer following 13 save performance with four goals allowed over the first three quarters.  William Byrne took over between the pipes for the Sagehens down the stretch as the team held an arguably insurmountable margin.

Sam Sasaki gave Byrne some additional breathing room with 6:24 left in the fourth quarter by finishing a pass from Noah Sasaki to expand the lead to 12-4.  Elliott followed suit by unleashing a liner that found nothing but net off a helper from Gross as the gap grew to nine goals at 13-4 with 5:42 left on the clock.

MIT shrank the final differential back to six before the closing horn as Geschke (3:32), Evan Kowal (2:17) and Yun (45 seconds) dented the twine with back-to-back-to-back unassisted tallies to pull within 13-7.

For Pomona-Pitzer, which outshot MIT by a 37-30 count and converted on five-of-10 man-up chances to the Engineers’ zero-for-five performance, Elliott led the way with eight goals, while Ben Sasaki scored once and handed out four assists. Green (one goal), Coleman (two assists), Noah Sasaki (one assist), Sam Sasaki (two goals, two assists), Hughes (one assist) and Gross (one goal, one assist) also factored in the scoring column.

Grant earned the win with 13 saves over 24 minutes prior to Byrne allowing three goals with two saves in the fourth quarter.

Yun and Sandell led MIT as both racked up two goals and an assist.  Steele (one goal), Kowal (one goal) and Geschke (one goal, two assists) complete the Engineers’ offensive stars.

Weaver took the loss with nine saves and 13 goals allowed.

Collegiate Water Polo Association