The Gannon University men’s water polo team shook off a tough loss to rival Mercyhurst and whipped Salem International, 14-7, Sunday to capture third place at the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference West Division Championships at the David M. Hallman III Aquatics Center in Erie.
Gannon finished its season with a 13-5 mark and its .722 winning percentage is the best in program history.
Gannon coach Sean Morphy, meanwhile, was named the MAWPC-West Region Coach of the Year in just his second season at the helm.
Gilberto Millan led the Knights with five goals in the win over Salem International while Nick Williams added four. Jack Donnelly contributed two goals while Zarko Sadikovic, Ian Roth and Brett Rehrer each finished with one.
The Knights revealed their full potential in the first quarter, running up a 7-0 lead in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
Millan and Williams led the way with two first-quarter goals apiece while Donnelly, Sadikovic and Roth each added one.
Millan said the Knights worked together well as a team, and that paid off all season long.
“I think that we progressed the most in team chemistry and knowing how every one of us deals with game situations,” Millan said.
“We weren’t the biggest team, but knowing each other made us better than the other teams.” Millan earned first-team honors in the MAWPC-West Region for the season, while scoring 50 goals — eighth most in the program’s history.
Williams tacked on two more second-period goals as Gannon built a 9-3 halftime lead in the win over Salem.
Then in the third, Millan added another two goals to help the Knights take a secure lead heading into the final quarter of their season.
Rehrer passed Darren Stone for the third most saves in a season at Gannon with 260.
On Saturday, the Knights fell to crosstown rival Mercyhurst in a game that was close throughout.
Early in the match, Gannon looked strong, jumping to a 3-2 lead. However, in the second period Mercyhurst showed a fantastic defensive effort by holding the Knights scoreless and taking a 4-3 advantage going into intermission.
The Knights were not ready to give up their championship dreams. Millan scored his third goal at the 7:22 mark in the third to tie the match. However, Mercyhurst’s Connor Schmitz tallied two goals to put the Lakers up 8-6 heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth, the Knights pulled to within one when Williams scored with 6:14 to play, but the Lakers’ relentless offensive attack continued with two straight goals to make it 10-7 with just under four minutes remaining.
A late goal by Marko Sadikovic couldn’t close the game enough and Mercyhurst held on for the win.
Millan finished with three goals while Marko Sadikovic added two and Williams and Zarko Sadikovic each chipped in one goal. The Knights also had three team goals.
Millan said he’s looking forward to 2017 already.
“Next season I think will be better for us because even if we lose our lefty Mike (Squeglia) and our holeset Marko (Sadikovic), we have learned a lot from this year,” he said.