ANNAPOLIS, MD – Despite outscoring sixth seeded Navy 6-3 with four straight scores in the fourth period, the Iona College men’s water polo team fell to the host Midshipmen 14-12 Friday afternoon in the opening round of the three-day CWPA Championship at the United States Naval Academy.
Senior Jake Lloyd led Iona with four goals. Senior Kyle Elmore and sophomore Matthew Rothman scored two goals, while senior James Ramaley, sophomore Elerick Curet, sophomore Hudson Grieve and sophomore Chris Ellis added one goal each.
Senior goalie Mike Pufunt recorded five saves and one steal. On defense, Elmore drew four exclusions, and senior Ian Thompson drew three, while Curet had two steals.
Navy (17-11) scored first with 2:01 gone in the match, then hit three unanswered goals to lead 4-0 at the end of the first period.
The Midshipmen had more consecutive goals until Lloyd put the Gaels (6-20) on the board with 4:23 left in the second period. Curet scored on an assist from senior Rafael Romero to narrow the Navy lead to 6-2 at the 3:10 mark. Navy scored a minute later, but Ramaley answered to pull Iona with four with 1:20 left as the host team led 7-3 at halftime.
Two minutes into the third period, Elmore scored, but so did Navy 17 seconds later to lead 8-4 at the 5:42 mark. The Midshipmen tacked on three more scores, until Elmore stuck again with 38 seconds left to narrow the Navy lead to 11-5 going into the final period.
Just 1:05 into the fourth period, Navy hit a five-meter penalty shot. But 15 ticks later, Iona did the same as Lloyd scored after Elmore drew the exclusion. Navy scored at the 6:14 mark, but Lloyd’s third goal narrowed the gap to 13-7 with six minutes to go. After a Navy goal at 4:20, Iona rallied with five straight goals. After Ellis hit with 3:58 to go, Lloyd hit his fourth score to narrow the host lead to 14-9 only 1:45 later.
In the final two minutes, Grieve scored on a 6-5 Gael advantage at 1:42, followed by Rothman’s two straight goals, the second coming with 16 seconds left in regulation. But Navy stalled in the remaining time to seal the win.
Despite the disappointing opening loss, Iona head coach Brian Kelly saw a positive effort by his squad against Navy.
“I thought we had an excellent first quarter where we played as well as Navy or even better,” Kelly said. “We just couldn’t convert on our six-on-fives and an handful of defense miscues put us down four-nothing.
“I feel like both teams made the same amount of mistakes. They just capitalized better on ours.”
The Gaels face the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Saturday at 12:45 pm.