After a rough start to the season, the Gannon University men’s water polo team has rebounded to an impressive 4-0 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) record and a 10-6 overall record.
Most recently, the Knights won the College Water Polo Association Division II Championships, which were played at Gannon Saturday and Sunday.
This was Gannon’s second time winning the trophy since the tournament began in 2003.
The first time the Knights won the championship was during the 2014 season.
This is coach Sean Morphy’s third year with the squad so it was the first time his team had won with him at the helm.
“I would say last year this weekend was a bit of a disappointment for us and the team learned from that mistake and came out ready to play,” Morphy said.
He said the Knights took every game plan and executed it very well.
Redshirt junior Zarko Sadikovic, the tournament MVP, wasn’t able to play in last year’s tournament because he took a redshirt year, but recalled that the Knights were talented enough to win it then.
“We were for sure the best team,” he said, “but the chemistry wasn’t there and so that’s why we didn’t win it.”
Gannon began tournament play Saturday with a 15-11 victory over Salem International University. The Knights trailed Salem 2-1, but senior Gilberto Millan tied it up right before the end of the first period, which prompted a two-goal lead from freshman Tony Squeglia in the second.
Salem responded with two to tie it 4-4, but freshman Tim Baer and Millan moved the offense and sophomore Jack Donnelly netted a goal 40 seconds before halftime to put the Knights ahead, 8-4.
Salem cut the deficit to 8-6, but senior Nick Williams, redshirt junior Jake Rehrer and Donnelly responded with goals. The Tigers countered with their own 3-0 run, squeezing in the last goal with eight seconds left in the third period to make the score 11-9 going into the final quarter.
Millan, Rehrer and sophomore Thomas Squeglia scored three more times for Gannon, and Salem scored two more before Gannon squeaked in one more goal to make the score 15-11 before the clock hit zero.
In the second match against McKendree University, the Knights were successful once again, winning 15-7. Prior to the battle both teams honored three Gannon seniors for Senior Night – Millan, Williams and Evan Wujcik.
Gannon’s offense jumped on McKendree early with three goals from Millan, Thomas Squeglia and Sadikovic.
The Knights maintained the lead they established early on throughout the rest of the match. McKendree was able to cut the deficit, and went into half with the score at 7-3 in favor of the Knights.
Gannon continued to pull away, building its lead to 12-3 before McKendree got on the board again. The teams played evenly in the final eight minutes, but it was Gannon that came out victorious.
Junior Brett Rehrer totaled 26 saves and seven assists at goal between both games against Salem and McKendree.
The final game of the championship was as fruitful as the first two as Gannon defeated rival Mercyhurst University, 16-12, and they captured the championship trophy.
Williams wasted no time scoring the first goal of the match 41 seconds into the contest. Mercyhurst and Gannon battled it out until the Lakers took a 4-3 lead after the first.
The opponents settled at six before Gannon scored three straight from Williams, Rehrer and sophomore Riley Hinkley, giving Gannon a 9-6 lead at halftime.
Mercyhurst began the third quarter with a pair of goals, but a Rehrer goal began a 5-0 run to propel the Knights to a 14-8 lead.
Gannon scored two more in the fourth while Mercyhurst scored four, but it was not enough as the Knights came out with the 16-12 win.
Millan, Williams, Sadikovic and Donnelly were named to the all-tournament team and Sadikovic was named the tournament MVP.
Sadikovic said it is nice to have his brother Marko around to help coach, and he added that Marko’s replacement, Williams, has been doing a great job. He also mentioned that the team and Morphy have been a huge help in transitioning him from European and Californian rules of water polo to northeastern rules.
The Knights will head to Connecticut College this weekend for the second of two MAWPC weekends.
Morphy said the team’s goal is to go undefeated and rank first going into the MAWPC Championships.
“The guys had another great practice week and they are excited to keep this streak going,” Morphy said.