ERIE, Pa. — Tournament Most Valuable Player Matthew Haygood (Jr., Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) scored six times and Coach of the Tournament Colleen Lischwe picked up her second title as No. 1 seed/regular season champion McKendree University dethroned 2019 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)-West Champion/No. 2 seed Gannon University with a 21-8 victory at the Winter 2021 MAWPC-West Championship.
The title terminates Gannon’s one-year tenure as MAWPC-West Champion and continues a trend of one-year reigns by MAWPC-West Champions as Mercyhurst University (2016), Gannon (2017), McKendree (2018) and Gannon (2019) previously claimed the four prior events at the David M. Hallman III Aquatics Center.
Battling in a rematch of the 2019 MAWPC-West Championship claimed by Gannon via a 15-14 victory in overtime, the Bearcats fell behind 1-0 13 seconds into the game, but rallied back to outscore the Golden Knights 6-2 over the remainder of the first quarter prior to achieving 2-1, 7-2 and 6-2 scoring advantages in the second, third and fourth quarters.
The game also marked a rematch of a 13-11 regular season win by McKendree over Gannon on February 13 which concluded a 29-game consecutive conference regular season winning streak by the Golden Knights. Dating back to the start of MAWPC-West regular season action in 2016, Gannon had never lost a MAWPC-West regular season game and held the No. 1 seed for the MAWPC-West Championship in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Playing out of the No. 2 spot for the first time, Gannon jumped out to an early advantage on the scoreboard as Vladimir Mickic (So., Subotica, Serbia/Nikola Tesla) found the back of the cage that eluded McKendree goalie Ori Scanlon (Sr., Orlando, Fla./Olympia) 13 seconds into the game.
It marked the only time Gannon led in the game as Nico Rodriguez (Jr., Bogota, Colombia/Oviedo) delivered consecutive responses at 7:01 and 6:07 to push McKendree into the lead at 2-1.
The Bearcats did not relinquish its advantage the rest of the way as Haygood hurled in another strike at 5:36 to make it 3-1 prior to Ethan Hamp (Sr., Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) tickling the twine at 4:39 to inch Gannon back to within one at 3-2.
Haygood (2:16) and Andrew Serrano (Sr., Riverside, Calif./Martin Luther King) (1:33) built the lead to 5-2 prior to Haygood lining i a five-meter penalty shot with 39 seconds left in the first quarter for a 6-2 lead.
Gannon attempted to climb back into the game as Hamp netted man-up (11 seconds) and natural (5:55) goals to close the first and open the second quarters.
However, Michael Rojas (Fr., Cali, Colombia) and Haygood closed out the first half by sticking shots past Golden Knights’ goalie Jacob Hollo (So., Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) at the 3:43 and 2:04 marks, respectively, to provide McKendree an 8-4 lead by halftime.
Hamp added his fourth goal of the game 48 seconds into the third quarter to inch Gannon back to within three at 8-5.
The margin did not remain at three for long, however, as Abraham Allen (Sr., Webster Groves, Mo./Webster Groves) torched the Gannon cage at 6:52 and 5:50 prior to Haygood cashing in on a man-up opportunity with 4:17 remaining on the clock to make it 11-5.
Rodriguez (3:22) and Josh Carlson (Jr., New Lenox, Ill./Lincoln Way West) (2:45) padded the lead to eight goals at 13-5 prior to Dylan Schmitzerle (Fr., Plymouth, Mich./Huron) snapping McKendree’s five score surge with a strike at 2:18 to make it 13-6.
Rodriguez (1:11) and Serrano (41 seconds) enlarged the margin to nine goals prior to the end of the third quarter as the duo dented the cage to make it 15-6 through 24 minutes of competition.
Anthony Squeglia (Sr., Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep) attempted to reinvigorate the Gannon offense by lining in a shot with 6:32 to go, but Serrano (5:26), Rodriguez (4:40; 2:52), Pedro Osorio (Sr., San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) (3:32) and Haygood (2:02) put any doubts about the eventual outcome to rest by ticking off five consecutive markers to provide the Golden Knights at 13-score lead at 20-7.
Both teams found the twine prior to the final horn as Seth Johnson (So., Sugar Hill, Georgia/Lanier) put away a man-up chance for Gannon (1:36) and Tristen Clue (Jr., Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) answered for the Bearcats (1:13) for the 21-8 finale.
The game established or tied several marks for the MAWPC-West Championship:
- Largest margin of victory (13 goals – breaking the record of three set by Mercyhurst-vs.-Connecticut College (11-8 W) and McKendree-vs.-Salem University (11-8 W)
- First title game that did not end in either an 11-8 (2016: Mercyhurst 11, Connecticut 8; 2018: McKendree 11, Salem 8) or 15-14 (2017: Gannon 15, Mercyhurst 14; 2019: Gannon 15, McKendree 14 OT) final score.
- Most goals in the title game: 29 (tying Gannon’s 15-14 MAWPC-West victories in 2017 and 2019)
Further, the game marked the third meeting between the Bearcats and Golden Knights at the MAWPC-West Championship as McKendree terminated Gannon’s hopes of repeating as MAWPC-West Champion in 2018 by picking up a 12-9 win in the semifinals on the way to capturing the program’s inaugural varsity championship.
For McKendree, Haygood and Rodriguez shared high scorer honors with six apiece, while Serrano added three as a trio of Bearcats posted hat-tricks in the victory. Allen (two), Carlson (one), Rojas (one), Osorio (one) and Clue (one) also factored on offense, while Scanlon made 10 saves to pick up the win between the pipes.
McKendree, which joined the MAWPC in 2017 following a season as a collegiate club team, has now placed fifth (2017), first (2018), second (2019) and first (Winter 2021). Gannon, which has competed in the MAWPC since the group’s formation from the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) in 2016 had garnered only first (2019, 2017) and third (2018, 2016) place finish marks prior to adding a runner-up finish this year.
Hamp keyed Gannon with four goals. Schmitzerle, Mickic, Johnson and Squeglia each notched solo tallies in support of goalies Hollo and Nate Winkler (Sr., Southlake, Texas/Carroll) who combined for 10 saves.
For history buffs, although the site for the MAWPC-West Championship has not changed since its inauguration in 2016, the team hosting does seem to have an impact. Erie-area league members Mercyhurst and Gannon are the two teams which have hosted the event. Gannon hosted the event in both 2017 and 2019 – both years’ the Golden Knights claimed the crown and Mercyhurst came in second (2017) and fourth (2019). Mercyhurst – which hosted the event in 2016, 2018 and Winter 2021 – has notched first (2016) and fourth (2018, Winter 2021) marks while hosting. For Gannon, Mercyhurst as a host has been a struggle as the Golden Knights are now 0-3 in their title hopes with third (2018, 2016) and runner-up (Winter 2021) place finishes with Mercyhurst (2016) and McKendree (Winter 2021, 2018) combining for the three victories.
Thanks to earning berths in the MAWPC-West Championship title game, both Gannon and McKendree will see their seasons continue for at least another week at the Winter 2021 MAWPC Championship slated for Saturday-Sunday, March 6-7, at the United States Naval Academy’s Lejeune Hall in Annapolis, Md. The Golden Knights and Bearcats will travel East to face the host/No. 10-ranked Midshipmen, Bucknell University, Fordham University, George Washington University, Iona College and La Salle University in a single-elimination tournament to decide the league’s automatic qualifier for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship at the University of Southern California.
In the history of the CWPA, MAWPC and Northeast Water Polo Conferences, Fordham, Iona, McKendree and Gannon have never earned automatic berths to the NCAA Championship – a record the quartet will attempt to shatter next weekend in Maryland.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||–||FINAL|
|McKendree Goals:||Nico Rodriguez (6); Matthew Haygood (6); Abraham Allen (2); Andrew Serrano (3); Tristen Clue; Pedro Osorio; Michael Rojas; Josh Carlson|
|Gannon Goals:||Ethan Hamp (4); Anthony Squeglia; Seth Johnson; Vladimir Mickic; Dylan Schmitzerle|
|Saves:||McKendree – Ori Scanlon (10) ; Gannon – Jacob Hollo (9, 24 minutes), Nate Winkler (1, 8 minutes)|
|Exclusions:||McKendree – 14 ; Gannon – 7|
|Advantage Opportunities:||McKendree – 2-for-7 ; Gannon – 1-for-14|
|Sprints:||McKendree – 1-for-4 (3rd) ; Gannon – 3-for-4 (1st, 2nd, 4th)|
|Cards/Misconducts:||YC – Gannon (Head coach Shane Unger, 3:43 left in 2nd Q)|
|Officials:||Jason Grubb ; Igor Mernenko|
McKendree University’s Abraham Allen (#6)
Gannon University’s Jacob Hollo (#1) rises for a save on a shot against McKendree University’s Nico Rodriguez (#10) as Robert Bolmanski (#8)
Gannon University’s Robert Bolmanski (#8) attempts to elude McKendree University’s Andrew Serrano (#18)
Winter 2021 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference-West Championship Third Place: Mount St. Mary’s University
Winter 2021 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference-West Championship Runner-Up: Gannon University
Winter 2021 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference-West Champion: McKendree University