NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The Iona men’s water polo team opened its 2016 season today by splitting two matches with an 11-6 loss to Navy and a 10-6 win over Gannon University at Lejeune Hall in the Navy Labor Day Open hosted by the United States Naval Academy.
Game 1 vs. Navy
In the season-opening loss to Navy, junior Zach Roper led Iona (1-1, 0-0 CWPA) with three goals, and junior Marc Stauble scored two goals, along with the Gaels’ only two assists. Junior Jonathan Hulbert scored one goal. Iona scored on three of seven man-up opportunities, while Navy capitalized on four of six.
On defense, Iona made two blocks and eight steals with three by freshman Lloyd Quinn in his first match as a Gael. The Gaels drew eight Navy kickouts, while being ejected seven times. Senior tri-captain Hudson Grieve was disqualified in the fourth quarter.
In his Gael debut, freshman goalie Jorge Andres Torres had 13 saves facing 30 shots and adding four steals, including coming out of the net for two goal-stopping swipes in the final period.
With 1:24 gone, Roper hit the season’s first goal, but Navy answered with 5:11 left in the first period for a 1-1 tie. Stauble needed only 41 seconds to put the Gaels back on top, but the Midshipmen retied the game at two with 3:52 to go. Two consecutive scores from Roper and Hulbert gave the Gaels a 4-2 edge at the 2:44 mark. The hosts narrowed the gap to one 4-3 only 17 seconds later.
Navy knotted the game at four with 1:08 gone in the second period, then took the lead 5-4 with 5:46 to halftime. The Gaels failed to score in the second quarter as Navy maintained its 5-4 edge at intermission.
Navy upped its lead to 6-4 with 41 seconds gone in the third period, until Roper pulled the Gaels with one 6-5 just 41 ticks later. The Midshipmen went back up by two 7-5 with 5:18 gone, then Stauble’s second score narrowed the gap to one 7-6 at the 3:38 mark in the third quarter. The hosts tapped in a rebound with one second on the clock for an 8-6 advantage going into the final period. Navy outscored Iona 3-0 in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
While disappointed with the loss to Navy, Iona head coach Brian Kelly had praise for his squad’s win against Gannon, specifically the performance of his freshman goalie.
“Jorge Torres was exceptional in net,” said Kelly, who begins his twenty-second season at the helm. “He stopped two breakaways and two inside waters. I wish our offense could have done more to support him, but give Navy credit. They really wore us down in the second half, especially the fourth quarter.
Game 2 vs. Gannon
In Iona’s first season win, Roper and sophomore Andres Guerra led the Gaels with two goals. Zach Roper also had two of Iona’s six assists. Senior Dan Fleck, Marc Stauble, sophomore Roche Pretorius, sophomore Jason Hill, and freshmen Cullen Seippe and Quinn Lloyd scored one goal apiece. Iona scored on three of six man-up chances, while the Gael defense shut down all five Golden Knight man-up advantages. The Iona offense took 34 shots, but turned the ball over 15 times.
Torres had 14 saves on 31 Gannon shots and five steals. On defense, Iona made nine steals and seven blocks. The Gaels drew five Golden Knight kickouts, and were ejected six times.
Gannon struck first with 3:24 left in the opening quarter, and held Iona scoreless until Seippe’s first collegiate goal tied the match at one with 40 ticks on the clock.
With both teams scoreless for the first three minutes of the second period, Gannon took a one-goal lead 2-1 at the 5:05 mark, but Stauble retied the game at two on Iona’s next possession. Roper gave the Gaels their first lead 3-2 with 2:54 left until the Golden Knights hit two straight scores within a minute for a 4-3 edge. Lloyd’s first Gael goal tied the game at four at intermission.
Guerra needed only 27 seconds on Iona’s first second half possession to give the Gaels the lead back 5-4. With 4:11 left in the third period, Gannon tied the match for the fifth time at five each. Pretorius put Iona back on top for good with 1:33, followed by Hill 29 ticks later, as the Gaels led 7-6 going into the final period.
With the Gaels defense holding the Golden Knights scoreless in the fourth quarter, two straight Iona goals by Fleck and Guerra gave Iona a three-goal lead 9-6 with 5:25 left in regulation. Roper’s second goal with 1:59 to go ensured the Gaels’ first season victory.
“We showed a lot of resolve playing in our second game of the day and finishing strong against a talented Gannon team who was rested,” said Kelly. Our defense stepped up and Jorge has another tremendous game.
The Gaels will conclucde the Navy Labor Day Open tomorrow in a double-header against Pennsylvania State University Behrend at 10:40 a.m. and Salem International at 2 p.m.