ERIE, Pa. — Milos Popovic (Sr., Nis, Serbia/Gimnasium 9 May) and Robert Juhas (Sr., Pancevo, Serbia/Electrotechnical “Nikola Tesla”) both scored five times as Salem University pulled out to an early lead and never looked back to overcome Mercyhurst University, 16-9, and claim Third Place at the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)-West Region Championship hosted by Gannon University at the David M. Hallman III Aquatics Center.
Following earlier Second (2018), Third (2017) and Fourth (2016) Place marks in the three prior MAWPC-West Championships – all hosted at the Hallman Aquatics Center – Salem continues to reign among the Top Four teams in the conference’s Western half.
The Tigers bared their claws early as Salvador Orozco (Sr., Commerce, Calif./Cerritos College) (7:17, even-strength), Popovic (5:11, man-up) and Michael Rojas (R-Jr., Valle del Cauca, Cali, Colombia/Colegio San Joaquin Parroquial) (4:02, even-strength) went back-to-back-to-back to push Salem ahead 3-0 less than four minutes into the game.
The lead held up the rest of the way as Mercyhurst moved within 3-2 prior to the close of the first quarter via tallies by Daniel Alvarez (Sr., Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago) and Paul Goddard (Fr., Orlando, Fla./East River) at 1:39 (even-strength) and 52 seconds (man-up), respectively.
However, the Lakers were never able to pull even with Salem as the Tigers ticked off five consecutive strikes to commence the second quarter and acquire an 8-2 lead with 3:25 until halftime. The six-goal deficit proved too much for Mercyhurst to surpass over the remainder of the game as the Lakers cut their deficit to 8-3 before the squads exchanged volleys to make it 9-4 at the break.
Salem put to rest any doubts about the final result in the third quarter by building its lead to eight-goals (12-4, 3:38 left; 13-5, 1:21 left) to enter the final eight minutes of competition with a commanding advantage on the scoreboard.
Mercyhurst managed to trim the final margin back to seven prior to the final horn as the Lakers closed within 14-9 via a four-goal outburst following a Salem strike to start the fourth quarter. However, the Tigers tacked on two final markers in the final 97 seconds of competition to lock-up the victory.
For Salem, Rojas and Manuel Soto Estela (Fr., Puerto Rice/St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)) both deposited pairs of goals to join Popovic and Juhas in netting multi-score games. Further, Orozco and Petar Leontijevic (Jr., Belgrade, Serbia/Seventh Gimnasium in Belgrade) notched solo strikes in support of a 16-save effort from goalie Julen Alonso (Fr, Madrid, Spain/IES Beatriz Galindo).
Mercyhurst received four goals from Alvarez along with single markers by Goddard, Ryan Witoslawski (Sr., Harleysville, Pa./Souderton), Derek Kagen (Fr., San Diego, Calif./Clairemont), Teagan Thomas (Fr., St. Louis, Mo./De Smet Jesuit) and Michael Gutman (So., Columbus, Ohio/Saint Charles Prep). Goalie Nash Greeven (So., Vista, Calif./Cathedral Catholic) suffered the setback in cage with seven saves.
The result marks the Lakers’ second consecutive Fourth Place and fourth overall Top Four finish at the MAWPC-West Championship following previous First (2016), Second (2017) and Fourth (2018) Place marks.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||–||FINAL|
|Salem Goals:||Milos Popovic (5); Robert Juhas (5); Michael Rojas (2); Manuel Soto Estela (2); Salvador Orozco; Petar Leontijevic|
|Mercyhurst Goals:||Daniel Alvarez (4); Ryan Witoslawski; Derek Kagen; Teagan Thomas; Paul Goddard; Michael Gutman|
|Saves:||Salem – Julen Alonso (16) ; Mercyhurst – Nash Greeven (7)|
|Exclusions:||Salem – 9 ; Mercyhurst – 12|
|Advantage Opportunities:||Salem – 5-for-12 ; Mercyhurst – 1-for-9|
|Sprints:||Salem – 0-for-4 ; Mercyhurst – 4-for-4|
|Officials:||Hadi Farid; Brandon Nicholson|
Mercyhurst University’s Alex Cappuccio (#4) looks for an opening as Salem University’s Michael Rojas (#10) defends
Mercyhurst University’s Mathieu Davis (#7) defends Salem University’s Petar Leontijevic (#14)
Salem University’s Michael Rojas (#10) shoots over Mercyhurst University’s Joel Parnell (#11)