Water Polo Comes From Behind to Edge Mercyhurst, 9-8
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy water polo team (9-16) trailed by as many as three goals, but fought back to post a 9-8 victory over Mercyhurst (11-12) at Lejeune Hall in the second day of action at the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Championship tournament on Saturday afternoon. Navy had seven different players combine for nine goals, while the defense caused double-digit turnovers and recorded 10 saves in a balanced team effort.
“This felt like a replay of last year’s game versus Mercyhurst,” head coach Mladen Stanicic said after the game. “They had an early lead, which we managed to turn around using our defense and counterattack.”
For the second game of the tournament, junior goalkeeper Francis Kim (Houston, Texas) posted double-digit saves. Kim recorded 10 stops in the win, including keeping the Lakers scoreless the final four minutes of play. He was assisted by a defense that disrupted the Mercyhurst attack. The Lakers had 20 turnovers throughout the course of the game.
Offensively, Navy saw seven players combine for nine goals in the victory. Sophomore Nate Reiff (Wheeling, Ill.) and freshman Andrew Shashin (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) each scored a pair of goals on the day, while Jake Haines (Ashburn, Va.), J.B. Lee (Newport Coast, Calif.), Matt Skowronski (Oak Hill, Va.), Conor Sullivan (Greenfield, Mass.), and Shepherd Warren (Baltimore, Md.) added a goal apiece. Shashin’s second goal of the game proved to be the game-winner as it gave the Mids a 9-8 advantage with 3:14 to play that Navy would not relinquish.
In the first quarter, Skowronski started the scoring as the senior captain bounced a penalty shot into the bottom right corner of the net to put Navy in front 1-0. The lead was short lived as Mercyhurst responded with back-to-back goals to take a 2-1 lead through one quarter of play.
The Lakers continued their run with two goals to start the second quarter, building a 4-1 advantage. Shashin halted the run with his first goal of the game. Reiff followed with a penalty shot into the bottom left corner of the net to trim the margin to just one. Mercyhurst sued a goal with nine ticks remaining on the clock to take a 5-3 lead into halftime.
Coming out of the break, Navy rattled off three consecutive goals to take its first lead since the game was 1-0 in the first quarter. Sullivan opened the scoring with a goal one minute into the third quarter and Haines followed just over 30 seconds later. The third goal in the run came from Warren who skipped the ball from the right side of the net across to the bottom left quadrant of the goal to put the Midshipmen in front 6-5. The Lakers responded with a goal, but Navy answered as Reiff took a pass from Lee and slid it under the goalie’s arm for the score. With 95 seconds remaining in the third period, Mercyhurst scored, knotting the score at 7-7, which the two teams would take into the final quarter of play.
In the fourth quarter, Warren sent a pass over to Lee and the senior attacker found the back of the net to put Navy in front 8-7. Just over two minutes later, Mercyhurst knotted the game at 8-8, marking the fifth tie of the game. With roughly 3:15 to play, Kevin Volkov (Freehold, N.J.) fired a shot toward the goal. The ball hit the post and ricocheted right to an awaiting Shashin who corralled the ball and fired it in for the go-ahead goal. The goal proved to be the game-winner as both defenses held tough and did not allow a late goal.
Navy will play at 10:30 a.m. at the Lejeune Hall pool against the winner of Johns Hopkins (15-16) and Gannon (17-7).