ERIE, Pa. – Led by Tournament Most Valuable Player Robert Bolmanski (Fairview, Pa./McDowell), the Gannon University men’s water polo team won its fourth consecutive Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division II Championship with a 14-9 victory over Salem University at Cathedral Prep’s David M. Hallman III Aquatics Center.
Gannon, now 10-8, came in as the second seed, but began the championships with a 13-11 upset of top-seeded McKendree University on Saturday, October 23,, then held off local rival/tournament host Mercyhurst University by a 14-9 later in the evening. Salem also posted wins over both Mercyhurst (18-14 W) and McKendree (12-10 W) as the third seed. Gannon and Salem had split two previous meetings, with the Golden Knights prevailing 18-15 in the first meeting, but the Tigers edging Gannon 11-10 to set up the rubber match.
Bolmanski, a senior from nearby McDowell High School, was selected the Tournament MVP after scoring six goals in Saturday’s wins, including five in the McKendree upset, followed by three goals and an assist in the title game. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by Tony Squeglia (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep) and Drago Marjanovic (Belgrade, Serbia/North Allegheny (Pa.)). Gannon head coach Shane Unger was named the Coach of the Tournament for the second straight time, while Marjanovic and Squeglia were repeat performers on the all-tournament team.
- Most Valuable Player – Robert Bolmanski (Gannon University)
- Coach of the Tournament: Shane Unger (Gannon University)
- Rookie of the Tournament: Nikola Krstonosic (Salem University)
- Tony Golin (Goalie – Mercyhurst University)
- Nikola Krstonosic (Salem University)
- Ivan Zivojinovic (Salem Unversity)
- Michael Rojas (McKendree University)
- Tony Squeglia (Gannon University)
- Drago Marjanovic (Gannon University)
- Robert Bolmanski (Gannon University)
Leading 10-8 after three quarters, Gannon dominated the final eight minutes, scoring four of the five goals. The defense limited Salem to a goal while forcing several turnovers. Marjanovic scored the first two goals of the frame. The senior from Belgrade, Serbia took a pass from Squeglia for the first at 6:02, then added his third goal of the day at 4:26, assisted by Vlad Mickic (Subotica, Serbia /Nikola Tesla), for a 12-8 lead.
Salem scored a power play goal at 3:57, but the Tigers would be denied by goalie Jacob Hollo (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) the rest of the match.
Bolamnski, assisted by Squeglia at 3:39, and Mickic, assisted by Hollo at 3:04, added insurance goals to clinch the fourth straight championship.
Gannon never trailed in the contest, with just two ties at one-all and two-all.
The game got off to a fast start with both teams scoring in the opening minute, Bolmanski opened the scoring off a pass from Squeglia just 19 seconds into the game for a 1-0 lead, but Salem answered 22 seconds later. The Golden Knights went up 2-1 on a David Gallion (Arlington, Va./Homeschool) goal, again assisted by Squeglia at the 5:06 mark, but the Tigers knotted the score at two-all with 1:43 left in the opening quarter.
Gannon scored the next four goals for a 6-2 advantage. Bolmanski and Squeglia combined for the second time at 1:28, and Mickic scored just before the buzzer for a 4-2 lead after one quarter. Marjanovic assisted on the goal.
The Golden Knights continued the run with the first two goals of the second quarter.
Both came courtesy of Dylan Schmitzerle (Richmond, Va.), the first off a feed from Ethan Hamp (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) 32 seconds into the quarter, and the second from Marty Kaverman Jr. (Erie, Pa./McDowell) at 4:47. The latter goal started a string of four goals in less than a minute. Salem answered with a goal at 4:25 to cut the lead to 6-3, but Hamp scored, assisted by Squeglia, at 4:18. Salem responded with a goal at the 3:59 mark to make it 7-4. That is how the first half concluded as neither team scored in the final four minutes.
Salem closed to within two goals on three occasions in the third quarter.
The Tigers opened the scoring at 5:16 to close top 7-5, but a pair Squeglia found the back of the cage twice to build Gannon’s advantage back to four goals at 9-5 with 2:46 remaining in the third quarter. The first was assisted by Kaverman, the second by Bolmanski.
A pair of Salem goals cut the margin to 9-7, and the two teams each scored in the final minute of the third quarter, Gannon’s by Marjanovic, to make it 10-8 with one frame to play.
Bolmanski and Marjanovic each finished with three goals and an assist. Squeglia had two goals and six assists, with Mickic contributing two goals and an assist and Schmitzerle scoring twice. Hamp (one goal, one assist), Gallion (one goals), and Kaverman (two assists) also contributed points. Hollo had an assist while playing all 32 minutes in goal with 19 saves.
The 2021 event marked the 17th Division II Eastern Championship hosted by the CWPA as Queens College (2003, 2010), Salem (2004), Slippery Rock University (2005), Mercyhurst (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) and Gannon (2014, 2017, 2018, 2019) had previously taken the title. The 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Release courtesy Gannon University Athletics Communications
2021 Division II Eastern Champion: Gannon University
2021 Division II Eastern Championship Runner-Up: Salem University