ERIE, Pa. — In a battle of the two 2018 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)-West All-Conference goalies, the Second Team selection bested his First Team/MAWPC-West Region Most Valuable Player counterpart as Player of the Game Ori Scanlon (So., Orlando, Fla./Olympia) and the McKendree University Bearcats overcame defending MAWPC-West Champion and goalie Brett Rehrer (Sr., Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) by a 12-9 score in the semifinals of the 2018 MAWPC-West Championship hosted by Mercyhurst University at the Hallman Aquatics Center.
The 2018 MAWPC All-Conference Second Team pick at goalie, Scanlon turned aside 14 shots compared to First Team/MVP Rehrer’s 16 to allow the Bearcats to hold off a Golden Knights’ offensive push in the first quarter and snap a season-long 19-game winning streak by Gannon.
The lone undefeated team in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) water polo entering the game, Gannon had an overall 20-game winning streak coming into the contest dating back to a 13-12 sudden death overtime win on Sunday, November 19, 2017 against Mercyhurst at the United States Naval Academy during the Seventh Place game of the 2017 MAWPC Championship hosted by the Midshipmen in Annapolis, Md.
Slightly less than one-year later, the streak was snapped by Scanlon and McKendree as the Bearcats used a 3-1 scoring advantage in the first quarter to wobble the Golden Knights in the early going.
Trailing 1-0 following a tally by Gannon’s Zarko Sadikovic (R-Sr., Nis, Serbia/GTS Neimar) with 6:26 remaining in the first quarter, McKendree made the Golden Knights pay for their missed shots as Scanlon swatted down seven tries. The Bearcats converted the failed attempts into markers as Tony Sunagawa (Fr., Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) and Aaron Jacobs (Fr., Houston, Texas/Jersey Village) punched in transition strikes with 5:52 and 4:52 left on the quarter clock prior to Ben Brauer (Fr., Duisburg, Germany/Steinbart-Gymnasium Duisburg) cashing in a six-on-five chance at 4:09 to make it 3-1 in favor of McKendree by the conclusion of the opening frame.
Gannon punched back, however, to start the second quarter as Robert Bolmanski (Fr., Erie, Pa./McDowell) and Riley Hinkley (Jr., Meshoppen, Pa./Princeton) deposited back-to-back goals at 7:09 and 5:16, respectively, to knot the game and shift the momentum back to the defending MAWPC-West Champion.
The Bearcats answered as Matthew Haygood (Fr., Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills) launched in a strike from distance at 3:46 and Brauer jabbed in a five-meter penalty shot at 1:55 to make it 5-3 in favor of McKendree.
Once again, the Golden Knights volleyed their way back into the contest as Hinkley (1:39, even-strength) and Thomas Squeglia (Jr., Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep) (1:10, man-up) erased the lead to knot the squads at five-all with halftime quickly approaching.
The break would not come soon enough for Gannon as Abraham Allen (So., Webster Groves, Mo./Webster Groves) emancipated the Bearcats from equilibrium by zipping in a shot with 53 seconds remaining in the second quarter to put McKendree in front to stay at 6-5. The first half closed with a double-whammy for Gannon as Sadikovic – the 2017 MAWPC-West MVP and his team’s leading scorer – was called for a penalty with two seconds left on the clock. The penalty was his third personal foul of the game – sending him to the bench for the remainder of the contest – and permitted Joseph Mahan (Jr., Corinth, Texas/John H Guyer) to lance the Golden Knights with one second remaining with a successful five-meter penalty shot in making it 7-5 at the break.
The loss of Sadikovic and the last second five-meter carried over into the third quarter as McKendree kept the momentum. Haygood and Jackson Spencer (Fr., O’Fallon, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West) padded the Bearcats’ lead to 9-5 within the first four minutes of the second half as the duo drove home shots at 5:13 and 4:20, respectively.
Trailing by four with time winding down on a comeback bid, the Golden Knights attempted to start a rally as Squeglia stroked in his second tally of the contest at 3:53 to inch within 9-6. However, Mahan proved to be the man 50 seconds later by ripping in another blow in the closing moments of a quarter for the eventual game-winning marker to make it 10-6.
Nico Rodriguez (Fr., Winter Park, Fla./Oviedo) continued to pour it on for McKendree by dumping a ball into the cage 58 second into the fourth quarter (7:02) to hand the Bearcats an 11-6 lead.
The goal appeared to reawaken the Gannon offense as Anthony Squeglia (So., Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep) (6:41) and Thomas Squeglia (2:41) went back-to-back to make it a three-score game at 11-8.
However, Mahan for the third time in as many quarters delivered a fatal blow to Gannon’s comeback hopes as he slipped in a shot with 1:06 on the clock to make it 12-8.
Hinkley cashed in for his third goal to complete a hat-trick with 43 ticks remaining, but time ran out on the Golden Knights’ rally in permitting McKendree to escape with a 12-9 victory.
For McKendree, which will return to the pool at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 4, for the MAWPC-West title game versus the victor of a semifinal pitting the host Lakers of Mercyhurst against the Salem University Tigers, Mahan led the way with three goals. Brauer and Haygood both chipped in pairs, while Sunagawa, Spencer, Allen and Rodriguez each accounted for solo tallies.
The win avenges a pair of defeats against Gannon during the regular season as the Golden Knights struck down the Bearcats by counts of 18-10 (September 23 at Salem University) and 10-6 (October 13 at McKendree).
Gannon, which drops to 19-1 on the season and will face the fallen from the Mercyhurst-Salem semifinal at 10:30 a.m. on November 4 in the Third Place game, Hinkley and Thomas Squeglia keyed the attack with hat-tricks. Anthony Squeglia, Bolmanski and Sadikovic each notched solo strikes.
|1st Q||2nd Q||3rd Q||4th Q||–||FINAL|
|Gannon Goals:||Riley Hinkley (3); Thomas Squeglia (3); Anthony Squeglia; Robert Bolmanski; Zarko Sadikovic|
|McKendree Goals:||Joseph Mahan (3); Ben Brauer (2); Matthew Haygood (2); Aaron Jacobs; Tony Sunagawa; Jackson Spencer; Abraham Allen; Nico Rodriguez|
|Saves:||Gannon – Brett Rehrer (12) ; McKendree – Ori Scanlon (14)|
|Exclusions:||Gannon – 11 ; McKendree – 4|
|Advantage Opportunities:||Gannon – 1-for-4 ; McKendree – 3-for-11|
|Sprints:||Gannon – 1-for-4 (3rd) ; McKendree – 3-for-4 (1st, 2nd, 4th)|
|Cards/Misconducts:||YC – Gannon (Head coach Brett Morphy, 2:24 left in 2nd Q), McKendree (Ben Brauer, 1:55 left in 2nd Q), McKendree (Head coach Colleen Lischwe, 5:15 left in 4th Q); YC/RC – Gannon (Head coach Sean Morphy, 53 seconds left in 2nd Q)|
|Officials:||Mike Naughton, Hadi Farid|
Gannon University’s Robert Bolmanski (#8) attempts to move in against McKendree University