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ABC7 News Story & Video: Owner Takes Polar Plunge to Save Dog After He Falls Through Icy Pond in Anne Arundel Co.

BRIDGEPORT, Pa. — Typically United States Naval Academy head coach Luis Nicolao depends on his goalies to make saves – but earlier this week the 2021 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Hall of Fame inductee took matters into his own hands to save the life of his dog Moose.

Moose – an Aussie Doodle – was dropped off by Luis and Kellie Nicolao last week at dog sitter Nicolina Converso’s house in Edgewater, Maryland, as they headed off to California.

Moose, however, elected to have a doodle’s day out on the morning of December 23 as a door left open to pick up a tree on a patio allowed the dog to break free.

Moose was on the loose as a record cold snap arrived and Converso texted Nicolao in California with the news.

Converso turned to Facebook for help. It quickly became a community effort with Moose getting his own Facebook group called “Operation Fur Fugitive” with multiple sightings coming in.

On Thursday, December 29, a break occurred as a woman reported a dog wandering out onto a frozen creek. She heard him whining and crying. Nicolao and other folks rushed to the scene and saw the dog was in trouble.

An All-America player at Navy in his earlier days, Nicolao took the initiative, crashed through the ice and swam his dog to safety.

It is another story to add to a water polo/swimming career for Nicolao that earned him CWPA Hall of Fame recognition in Annapolis a year ago.

The second former Navy player to make the Hall of Fame joining former teammate and assistant coach Tom Popp (2008), Nicolao is one of three USNA affiliated individuals to earn a spot in the CWPA Hall of Fame joining Popp and retired head coach Mike Schofield (2014),

As a student-athlete at Navy, Nicolao was a three-time All-America (Third Team – 1990, 1991; Honorable Mention – 1989) and All-East (First Team – 1989, 1990, 1991) selection for the Midshipmen, graduating as the school’s all-time leader in points (377) and goals scored (282) along with rating sixth in assists (95). During the course of his career, Navy won two Eastern Championships (1988, 1990) and reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship Tournament on three occasions (1988, 1990, 1991). He was named the CWPA Eastern MVP in both 1990 and 1991, while earning CWPA First-Team All-East accolades for three straight seasons (1989, 1990, 1991). In addition, Nicolao served as the team captain as a senior during a 1991 season capped off by claiming NCAA Championship All-Tournament Second Team laurels prior to graduating in the Spring of 1992.

His 95 goals in 1990 and 81 goals in 1991 are second and seventh, respectively, on Navy’s single season list, while his 118 points in 1990 and 114 points in 1991 are fourth and fifth, respectively, all-time for a single year in Midshipmen history.

After earning the Naval Academy Athletic Association’s Sword for Men as the top graduating male athlete in 1992, Nicolao assisted with the Navy water polo program as a temporary assigned duty (TAD). He was also a member of the U.S. National Team that won the gold medal at the World University Games in 1993 before serving in the Navy for five years.

Nicolao returned to his alma mater’s pool in 1996 as an officer representative prior to accepting the head men’s and women’s coaching position at Princeton University in 1998. He also served as the U.S. men’s national “B” team assistant coach (1998, 1999).

During a 20-year tenure with the Tigers prior to taking command of the Naval Academy in January 2018, he posted a combined 868-316 (.733) record. Under his tutelage, the men’s team held a 402-163 (.712) overall mark, while the women amassed a 466-153 (.753) ledger.

Nicolao, the 2004 Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) Men’s National Coach of the Year, posted five CWPA Eastern Coach of the Year awards split between the men and the women (Men: 2004, 2009, 2011; Women: 2001, 2007) and has garnered Southern Coach of the Year honors on seven occasions (Men: 2001, 2003, 2008; Women: 2001, 2005, 2006, 2013).

He directed the Princeton men to nine Southern titles (1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015), four CWPA/Eastern crowns (2004, 2009, 2011, 2015) and made four NCAA Tournament appearances (2004, 2009, 2011, 2015). The women notched nine Southern titles (1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014), four CWPA/Eastern crowns (2000, 2012, 2013, 2015) and three NCAA berths (2012, 2013, 2015).

Collectively, Nicolao coached 29 Princeton student-athletes to a combined 65 All-America accolades with 15 men’s team members collecting 34 All-America honors and 14 women tallying 31 All-America distinctions. In addition, he oversaw eight men’s water polo players who earned CWPA Southern Player of the Year honors and a pair of CWPA Rookies of the Year.

On the women’s side, Nicolao coached six different student-athletes to a total of 12 CWPA Southern Player of the Year accolades with an additional two players claiming rookie of the year laurels.  His most notable women’s athlete at Princeton was goalie Ashleigh Johnson, the 2017 Cutino Award recipient, the 2016 Olympic Games Most Valuable Player and an Olympic Gold Medalist for the United States.

Since returning to Navy in January 2018, Nicolao has overseen a rehauling of the Midshipmen as the team has recorded 15-14, 16-13, 6-1, 16-13 and 16-15 marks from 2018-to-2022, respectively.  For his inaugural efforts in 2018, he was recognized by his peers with the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC)-East Region Coach of the Year award.  He also guided the Midshipmen to the 2021 MAWPC Championship title game at home in Annapolis.

Nicolao earned a Master’s Degree in adult education from the University of Phoenix. He and his wife, Kellie, have two daughters, Madison and Morgan.


United States Naval Academy three-time All-America Luis Nicolao

Luis Nicolao & Moose


Collegiate Water Polo Association