PRINCETON, N.J. – Senior goalie Luke Weiser made 10 saves as No. 1 seed Brown University men's water polo beat No. 4 seed St. Francis Brooklyn, 9-4, in the semifinals of the inaugural Northeast Water Polo Conference Championship on Saturday evening at Princeton's DeNunzio Pool.
The No. 10 nationally ranked Bears (22-7) advance to play No. 3 seed and No. 11 ranked Harvard (24-6) in the NWPC Championship first-place game tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 20, at noon. The No. 20 ranked Terriers (13-13) will meet No. 2 seed and No. 12 ranked Princeton (17-9) in the third-place game on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
Weiser (Los Alamitos, Calif.) – the Player of the Game – and the Bears' defense held the Terriers to just two goals over the final three quarters. Weiser turned aside five shots in the second quarter, including a 5-meter penalty shot, and senior Jake Wyatt (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) made a pair of key field blocks less than two minutes apart in the third quarter.
Seven different Bears found the back of the net with Wyatt and junior Rico Burke (San Mateo, Calif.) each scoring two goals. Seniors Luke Irwin (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Yahel Murvitz-Lahav (Tel Aviv, Israel), juniors Tommy Bush (Lafayette, Calif.) and Tyler Kirchberg (Orinda, Calif.), and freshman Jack Wilson (Pacific Palisades, Calif.) netted one goal apiece.
Burke opened the game's scoring, and after a Terrier goal tied the game at the 2:43 mark of the first quarter, Wilson put Brown back up 2-1 just 16 seconds later. St. Francis tied it again at 2-2, but freshman Hudson Rawlings (Murrieta, Calif.) drew a 5-meter penalty with under a minute to go in the frame, and Wyatt converted the ensuing penalty shot to put Brown up 3-2 after one.
Weiser kept momentum on the Bears side early in the second quarter, stopping a St. Francis penalty shot just over a minute into the period. He made three more saves before Bush scored on the power play off a pass from junior Austin Hwang (Laguna Hills, Calif.) with 3:27 to go until halftime. Brown remained ahead 4-2 at the break.
Irwin started the second half's scoring, posting a goal 37 seconds into the frame after Murvitz-Lahav passed the ball inside on a 6-on-5. Weiser followed with a pair of saves, and Wyatt made two field blocks, including one on a 6-on-4 to keep Brown up 5-2. After a St. Francis 5-meter penalty goal, Burke put the Bears back ahead 6-3 with a lob shot goal heading to the fourth frame.
Murvitz-Lahav scored at two meters off a feed inside from senior Warren Smith (Dallas, Texas) 19 seconds into the fourth to make it 7-3 prior to a Terrier tally. Kirchberg scored from straight on and Wyatt converted from the right wing off an assist from Kirchberg to seal the victory.
The Bears improved to 3-0 against St. Francis on the season after winning 11-10 (SDOT) on the road on Oct. 2 and 9-8 at home on Nov. 6. Brown split the season series with Harvard, winning 9-7 on the road on Oct. 8 and falling 9-8 (OT) at home on Oct. 29.
Brown – winners of three straight regular season conference titles – will play in their 12th conference title game all-time. The Bears have won five conference titles (1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 2014) while finishing as runners up six times (1978, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990).
The winner of tomorrow's championship game will earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship with Brown seeking to gain its second bid to the NCAA tournament in the last three years.
Brown 9, St. Francis 4
St. Francis................ 2…0…1…1…4
Brown Goals: Burke 2, Wyatt 2, Bush, Irwin, Kirchberg, Murvitz-Lahav, Wilson.
Brown Saves: Weiser 10.