PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Player of the Game/goalie Igor Mladenovic (Sr., Belgrade, Serbia/Sportska Gimnazija) stopped 18 shots to lead No. 13 St. Francis College Brooklyn to a 10-6 victory over No. 20 Bucknell University in the semifinals of the 2013 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Championship tournament hosted at Brown University.
The win advances the Terriers (21-10) to a showdown at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 24, against the victor of a semifinal matching No. 16 United States Naval Academy against No. 18 Princeton University as St. Francis will aim to make history. The defending league champion Terriers are now one stop closer to joining Yale University (1972-74), Bucknell (1977-80), Brown (1983-85), Navy (1986-88, 2006-08) and the University of Massachusetts (1993-96, 1998-99) as the only programs in league history to claim back-to-back crowns.
Against the Bison, St. Francis built a 5-0 first quarter lead and carried a 7-3 advantage into halftime to cruise to the win and an appointment for the program's eighth title game appearance.
All of the Terriers' damage in the first eight minutes of competition came at even-strength as Bosko Stankovic (Sr., Belgrade, Serbia/Sport Gymnasium), Liam Veazey (So., Dallas, Texas/Bryan Adams), Vuk Vujosevic (Jr., Belgrade, Serbia/Milos Crnjanski), Lazar Komadinic (Sr., Belgrade, Serbia) and Andras Kovacs (Jr., Budapest, Hungary) beat Bucknell goalie Keegan Williams (Jr., Menlo Park, Calif./Menlo School) with 6:23, 5:28, 3:40, 2:34 and 2:00 left in the first quarter to bury the Bison at 5-0.
Following a score by Veazey with 6:19 left in the second quarter to expand the margin to 6-0, the Bison broke up Mladenovic's shutout bid as Stefan Aleksic (So., Belgrade, Serbia/Sport Gymnasium) rocked a shot past the Northern Division Player of the Year at the 4:16 mark with both squads at even-strength. RJ Moore (Fr., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) shoveled another goal off the Terriers' pile of tallies at 2:39 as the first-year player took advantage of a six-on-five chance to close Bucknell to within 6-2.
The lead would remain at four going into halftime as Veazey completed a hat-trick with 29 seconds on the clock, but Aleksic answered 26 seconds later with a man-up strike past Mladenovic at the three seconds mark to make it 7-3 at the break.
Facing the possibility of a second half comeback by the Bison, the Terriers terminated any hopes of a dramatic rally thanks to back-to-back markers by Balint Toth (Jr., Budapest, Hungary/Kolcsey Ferenc Gimnazium) at the 7:46 an 5:03 marks of the third quarter to expand the lead to 9-3 and place Bucknell on its heels for the remainder of the contest.
Bucknell attempted to mount a rally in the dawning moments of the fourth quarter when Jack Else (Sr., Lansdale, Pa./North Penn) broke free for a scoring shot at 6:53, but Komadinic responded at 5:20 for a man-up goal and an exclamation point yellow card to keep the lead at six (10-4).
The Bison once again attempted to put together a string of scores to climb back into the game as Mike Kimble (Sr., Lafayette, Calif./Acalanes) put in a man-up score at 2:16 and Alex Nowlin (Sr., Coto de Caza, Calif./Tesoro) struck for a natural tally with 53 seconds to go, but the ticking of the clock and St. Francis' defense stymied any further scores to hold on for the 10-6 victory.
Bucknell, which will play for third-place in the 12-team field Sunday at 2:30 p.m. against the loser of the semifinal between Navy and Princeton and is guaranteed to finish in the top four at the CWPA Championship for the fourth time in the last five years, was led by Aleksic as the 2012 CWPA Championship Rookie of the Tournament notched two goals. In cage, Williams blocked down four shots in taking the loss.
For St. Francis, Veazy led the way with a hat-trick, while Toth and Komadinic tacked on pairs of goals to advance the Terriers to the eighth league title game in program history.
In the history of the CWPA Championship, the Terriers have appeared in seven previous title tilts in capturing the 2012 (10-9 OT vs. Bucknell at Princeton), 2010 (8-4 W vs. Navy at Bucknell) and 2005 (10-9 W at Harvard University), while falling in the 2007 (11-7 L vs. Navy at Harvard), 2004 (3-2 L OT SD vs. Princeton), 2000 (13- 12 L OT SD vs. Navy at Brown) and 1999 (vs. University of Massachusetts) championship games.
A Navy-St. Francis title game will mark the third meeting of the year between the two programs as the Terriers downed the Midshipmen 11-9 W at the Bruno Fall Classic on September 14-15 at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center before falling in a non-league game in Annapolis, Md by a 14-9 final score late in the regular season. St. Francis has not played Princeton to date this year.
|No. 20 Bucknell University
|No. 13 St. Francis College Brooklyn
SFC Goals: Liam
Veazey (3); Balint Toth (2); Lazar Komadinic (2); Vuk Vujosevic;
Andras Kovacs; Bosko Stankovic
Stefan Aleksic (2); RJ Moore; Jack Else; Alex Nowlin; Mike
Saves: SFC - Igor Mladenovic (18) ; Bucknell - Keegan Williams (4)
Exclusions: SFC - 9 ; Bucknell - 4
Advantage Opportunities: SFC - 1-for-4 ; Bucknell - 3-for-9
Sprints: SFC - 1-for-4 (3rd) ; Bucknell - 3-for-4 (1st, 2nd, 4th)
Cards: YC - SFC (Lazar Komadinic, 5:20 left in 4th)
Officials: Josh Kratz, Hadi Farid
Saint Francis College
Brooklyn's Liam Veazey