ERIE, Pa. — Nico Rodriguez (So., Bogota, Colombia/Oviedo) scored with 1:29 left in the first sudden victory overtime period as defending Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)-West Region Champion McKendree University went the distance and beyond to outlast Salem University, 16-15, and earn a spot in the 2019 MAWPC-West Region Championship title game.
Competing at the David M. Hallman III Aquatics Center, the Bearcats scratched out a one-goal sudden death win versus the Tigers thanks to a fourth quarter comeback to force overtime and return to the title tilt for a second consecutive year.
McKendree – which defeated Salem by a 13-12 score in last year’s MAWPC-West Region Championship game at the Hallman Aquatics Center – will face 2017 MAWPC-West Champion and four-time MAWPC-West regular season champion (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) Gannon University at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 10. The victor of the championship game earns the crown as the MAWPC-West’s best and a spot in the eight-team MAWPC Championship tournament at Bucknell University’s Kinney Natatorium in Lewisburg, Pa., on Friday-Sunday, November 22-24.
For the Bearcats, the game was a story of early and final leads bookending a run of Salem success that kept the Tigers out in front for the majority of the contest’s 39:31 length of play.
Salem jumped on the scoreboard first as Robert Juhas (Sr., Panceo, Serbia/Electrotechnical “Nikola Tesla”) scored 39 seconds into the game (7:21) to set the Tigers ahead at 1-0. McKendree answered the early blow with a pair of their own as Joseph Mahan (Sr., Corinth, Texas/John H Guyer) and Chava Osorio (Jr., San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) stroked in back-to-back shots at 4:38 and 4:09, respectively, to provide the Bearcats their first lead at 2-1.
The margin was short-lived as Milos Popovic (Sr, Nis, Serbia/Gimnasium 9 May) connected on the equalizer at 3:48. However, McKendree regained a narrow lead prior to the close of the opening frame as Adrian Maher (Jr., Keller, Texas/Keller) tickled the twine at 2:57 for a 3-2 Bearcats’ scoreboard advantage at the close of the first eight minutes.
Salem pulled even 36 seconds into the second quarter as Popovic converted on a man-up opportunity at 7:24. The goal ignited a four-score surge by the Tigers as Uros Jevtic (Jr., Kragujevac, Serbia/Druga Kragujevac Gimnazjia) followed with another six-on-five tally (6:11) before Popovic (3:49) and Salvador Orozco (Sr., Commerce, Calif./Cerritos College) (3:21) netted even-strength markers to push Salem ahead 6-3.
McKendree responded as Osorio lined in a five-meter penalty shot (1:42) and Maher flushed a natural goal (1:15) to move the Bearcats back to within at 6-5. Both teams found the back of the cage once more prior to halftime as Juhas (53 seconds) and Ben Brauer (Jr., Duisburg, Germany/Steinbart-Gymnasium Duisburg) (27 seconds) put away man-up bids to expand and contract the score from 7-5 to 7-6 at the break.
Following the break,, McKendree pulled even for the first time since the 7:24 mark of the second quarter as Matthew Haygood (So., Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) sliced in an even-strength shot 31 seconds into the third quarter (7:29) to lock the squads at seven-all.
The score fluctuated from a one-goal Salem lead to a tie over the remainder of the third quarter as Michael Rojas (R-Jr., Valle del Cauca, Cali, Colombia/Colegio San Joaquin Parroquial) put the Tigers ahead 8-7 (6:35, natural), Osorio balanced the scoreboard at eight-all (6:10, penalty shot), Manuel Soto Estela (Fr., Puerto Rico/St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)) (4:37, man-up) pushed Salem back in front at 9-8, Maher (4:18, natural) made it nine-all and Rojas (3:16, man-up) closed out the third quarter to provide his team a 10-9 margin heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.
Salem pushed ahead by a pair 38 seconds into the fourth quarter as Juhas deposited some insurance at 7:22 to make it 11-9. However, the Bearcats growled back into the game as Tony Sunagawa (So., Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) (5:42, man-up) and Aaron Jacobs (So., Houston, Texas/Jersey Village) (4:02, natural) dented the twine to make it 11-all.
Salem regained the lead at 12-11 with 2:42 to play via a man-up strike by Orozco, but Haygood posted the equalizer with 29 seconds until the final horn of regulation to make it 12-all through 32 minutes of competition.
In overtime, McKendree acquired its first lead since the end of the first quarter as Brauer broke the ice at 1:30 to make it 13-12 in favor of the Bearcats. Rojas (1:00) and Mahan (32 seconds) evened the score and pushed McKendree back into the lead as McKendree held a 14-13 margin after the first OT period.
A five-meter penalty shot by Mahan with 2:03 left in the second OT period provided McKendree with a commanding 15-13 lead, but Mike Diaz (So., Visalia, Calif./El Diamante) (1:05) and Austin Kephart (So., Sanford, Fla./Seminole) (four seconds) ticked off man-up tallies to make it 15-all and bring on Rodriguez’s heroics in sudden death.
For McKendree, which moves to 3-0 on the year against Salem with previous wins on October 19 (20-14 W) at Connecticut College and October 26 (17-14 W) at Salem, the trio of Mahan, Osorio and Maher each netted hat-tricks, while Haygood and Brauer posted pairs of goals. Sunagawa, Jacobs and Rodriguez each put away single goals in support of a 12 save effort by goalie Ori Scanlon (Jr, Orlando, Fla./Olympia).
Salem – which will face Mercyhurst University at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, November 10, for Third Place – received hat-tricks from Juhas, Rojas and Popovic. Orozco chipped in a pair with Diaz, Jevtic, Kephart and Soto Estela each tacking on single goals. In cage, Julen Alonso (Fr., Madrid, Spain/IES Beatriz Galindo) stopped 15 shots to take the loss.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||OT1||OT2||SD OT||–||FINAL|
|McKendree Goals:||Joseph Mahan (3); Chava Osorio (3); Adrian Maher (3); Matthew Haygood (2); Ben Brauer (2); Tony Sunagawa; Aaron Jacobs; Nico Rodriguez|
|Salem Goals:||Robert Juhas (3); Michael Rojas (3); Milos Popovic (3); Salvador Orozco (2); Uros Jevtic; Mike Diaz; Ausin Kephart; Manuel Soto Estela|
|Saves:||McKendree – Ori Scanlon (12) ; Salem – Julen Alonso (15)|
|Exclusions:||McKendree – 16 ; Salem – 15|
|Advantage Opportunities:||McKendree – 4-for-15 ; Salem – 7-for-16|
|Sprints:||McKendree – 6-for-6 ; Salem – 0-for-6|
|Cards/Misconducts:||McKendree – YC (Chava Osorio, 3:48 left in 1st Q), YC (Head coach Colleen Lischwe, 4:54 left in 3rd Q); Salem – YC (Head coach Rob Bullion, 4:54 left in 3rd Q), Y/RC (Head coach Rob Bullion, 2:19 left in 3rd Q)
|Officials:||Hadi Farid; Brandon Nicholson|
Salem University’s Milos Popovic (#4) tries for a steal against McKendree University’s Pedro Osorio (#14)
Salem University’s Michael Rojas (#10)
McKendree University’s Joseph Mahan (#7) shoots over Salem University’s Petar Leontijevic (#14) and Michael Rojas (#10)