NEW ROCHELLE, NY — After trailing by as many as four goals throughout the afternoon’s fifth-place match, the sixth-seeded Iona men’s water polo team rallied in the fourth quarter for a 10-9 season-ending win over the sixth-seeded Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Senior Zach Roper led the Gaels with four goals, including the two monumental scores in the final moments of regulation. Senior Matthew Rothman had three goals, while senior Jonathan Hulbert, sophomore Quinn Lloyd and freshman Dalton Hansten added one score each. The Gaels dished out six assists with two from Roper and Lloyd.
Sophomore goalie Jorge Andres Torres made 17 saves on 30 MIT shots while chipping in five steals and two assists.
On defense, Iona nabbed 12 steals, four by Roper, and blocked four shots. The Maroon & Gold turned the ball over 16 times, drew ten MIT kickouts, and were ejected 11 times. The Gaels scored on three-of-11 man-up chances compared to the Engineers who took advantage on four-of-eight chances.
MIT opened up the match with two unanswered goals in the opening 94 seconds. After stopping an Engineers shot, Torres heaved a pool-length assist to Roper, who put the Gaels on the board with 4:30 left in the opening period. Twenty-four ticks later, MIT went up 3-1, then added another goal with 49 seconds left for a 4-1 lead going into the second quarter.
The second period saw the Maroon & Gold concede one goal as the Gaels failed to score on five first-half man-up opportunities.
Rothman’s two-meter goal with 4:14 remaining in the third period trimmed the MIT lead to 5-2, but the Engineers answered on their next possession. On the Gaels next trip down the pool, Rothman’s second straight goal on a 6-5 advantage pulled Iona within three again 6-3 with 2:29 on the clock. Hulbert continued the Iona rally with another man-up score to trim MIT’s lead to 6-4 at the 1:49 mark. Two unanswered MIT goals in last minute of the third quarter put the Engineers up by four entering the final period.
In the fourth quarter, the Gaels outscored the Engineers 5-1. Two straight Iona goals from Hansten and Roper in the opening 2:10 narrowed the score to 8-6. Lloyd got the Gaels within one with 4:29 remaining, but the Engineers answered on their next possession for a 9-7 edge. Roper made the match a one-goal game 9-8 with 1:19 left. He tied the score shortly thereafter on a breakaway goal with 46 seconds on the clock to force overtime.
With 27 seconds left in the first overtime, Rothman gave the Gaels their first, and only-needed lead of the game. Neither team scored in the second overtime as Torres’ save with 18 seconds left sealed the 10-9 win.
Iona head coach Brian Kelly was pleased with his squad’s comeback victory, especially Roper’s leadership and performance.
“It was a long game with a lot of momentum swings,” Kelly said. “We got down big early – down 5-1 – but we never felt out of the game. Our captain Zach Roper said it best at the start of overtime, when he told the team to think about all the training they had done throughout the year and all the conditioning sets.”
The Gaels finish the 2017 season with an 8-21 overall record.