LORETTO, Pa. — The Red Flash of Saint Francis University honored their senior class and sent them off in style with a pair of victories by downing Mercyhurst University, 9-8, and Gannon University, 11-9, of the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) inside the Stokes Natatorium.
Saint Francis set the tone early in the opener against the Lakers of Mercyhurst as Ani Aghakhanian (La Crescenta, Calif./Los Angeles Valley College) and Erin O’Neill (Landsdale, Pa./North Penn) each scored in the opening quarter to give SFU an early 2-0 advantage.
The Lakers briefly flipped the script in the second quarter with two goals in under a minute to quickly knot the match at two.
Julia Bradford (Edinboro, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) had the answer to the Lakers’ second tally, striking just 20 seconds after the equalizer to give SFU back the lead. She made it 4-2 with her second goal of the quarter as the Red Flash quickly regained their two-goal lead.
Out of a timeout, the Lakers would again draw within one, making it 4-3 with just under three minutes to play in the half. Bradford made it three second-period goals and netting a hat trick with a late dagger for Saint Francis, scoring with just six seconds left in the half and sending SFU into the break up 5-3.
Breanna Dupperon (Regina, Canada/Campbell Collegiate) struck for her first of three second-half goals early in the third quarter to allow SFU to double up Mercyhurst at 6-3.
The teams traded goals late in the quarter with Dupperon answering the Lakers’ goal with her second with just 39 seconds remaining. The Lakers made it 7-5 with a goal just 20 seconds later and the high-octane final minute was capped by a true buzzer beater. Caroline Gillespie (Lansdale, Pa./North Penn) beat the third-quarter horn with her only goal of the day with just one second remaining in the frame to provide SFU a three-goal cushion at 8-5.
With time on their side, the Red Flash were comfortable letting the clock drain as neither team scored in the first four minutes of the final quarter.
Mercyhurst finally dented the scoreboard with 3:54 remaining to make it 8-6 only to see Dupperon add her third goal of the day with 1:38 remaining to push the lead back to three.
The Lakers had one final push, scoring twice in the final 70 seconds. However, their final tally came with just eight seconds left and the Red Flash were able to run out the clock and secure the victory.
The nightcap was one of runs between the Golden Knights of Gannon and the Red Flash.
After splitting the first two goals, Saint Francis ripped off four in a row to take a 5-1 lead. Aghakhanian made the most of her senior day, scoring three times during the run.
Gannon chipped away at the lead, scoring twice in the final minute of the quarter to make it 5-3 in favor of Saint Francis after the opening eight minutes.
The Golden Knights kept their momentum going by scoring the first two goals of the second quarter to draw even with SFU at five-all.
Bradford scored the first of her two tallies, right off a SFU penalty kill to give the Red Flash back the lead before Cam Nguyen (Mason, Ohio/Mason) made it 7-5 with her only goal of the day. However, the Golden Knights had one more tally in them before the half to cut Saint Francis’ lead to 7-6 by halftime.
Gillespie opened the third-quarter with a strike prior to Dupperon piggy-backing the tally with one of her own to stretch the lead out to three at 9-6.
The Gannon defense turned stout, keeping the Red Flash off the scoreboard the rest of the quarter. The Golden Knights’ offense went to work, scoring three times over the final six minutes of the quarter to deadlock the squads at nine-all heading into the fourth quarter.
O’Neill fired a goal into the short side two minutes into the final frame which proved to be the game-winner.
Saint Francis’ defense shutdown Gannon thanks to three saves in the waning minutes by goalie Kate Wilke (Burbank, Calif./Burroughs) as the graduating junior finished with 11 stops on the night. Bradford added an insurance goal with 49 seconds left in the match as Saint Francis moved to 2-0 on the season in its home pool.
Release courtesy Saint Francis University Athletics Communications