PRINCETON, N.J. --Tournament Most Valuable Player Marko Gencic (Sr., Belgrade, Serbia/Sports Gymnasium) skipped in a feed from Balint Toth (So., Budapest, Hungary/Kolcsey Ferenec Gimnazium) with 1:25 left in the second overtime period for the season-deciding tally as No. 12 St. Francis College held off No. 15 Bucknell University, 10-9 OT, to claim the 2012 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Eastern Championship.
The Terriers (16-8), who had to overcome a Bison (17-14) fourth quarter comeback that nearly ended St. Francis' season in the Garden State rather than the sunny shores of the Golden State of California at the University of Southern California for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship on Decemeber 1-2, survived to back-to-back nailbiters to claim the league crown.
Following a 12-11 victory over No. 17-ranked Mercyhurst University in the semifinals, the Terriers opened the game with a cold streak as Southern Division Player of the Year Brian Barron (Sr., Oak Park, Ill./Fenwick) struck for a five-meter penalty shot at the 5:48 mark to put the Bison in front 1-0.
St. Francis tied the score 25 seconds later via a blast by Bosko Stankovic (Jr., Belgrade, Serbia/Sport Gymnasium) at 5:23, but the Bison regained the scoring advantage with 24 seconds remaining in the opening period on a sweeping shot by Mike Kimble (Jr., Lafayette, Calif./Acalenes) to make it 2-1.
The Terriers tied the game-up with 6:26 left in the first half as Stankovic found a crack in the Bison defense for a man-up strike. St. Francis gained its first lead of the contest less than two minutes later when Marko Dzigurski (Jr., Novi Becej, Serbia/Sredna Skola Novi Becej) beat Bucknell goalie Matt Napleton (Sr., Oak Park, Ill./Fenwick) with a shot that skimmed the water and settled into the back of the cage at 4:43 to stake SFC to a 3-2 lead.
Similar to the Terriers' comebacks, Bucknell erased the margin with extreme prejudice as Barron slammed a five-meter penalty shot past the diving body of St. Francis netminder Igor Mladenovic (Jr., Belgrade, Serbia/Sportska Gimnazija) at 4:31 to even the damage at three-all.
Following a penalty call on Toth and a yellow card to St. Francis head coach Igor Samardzija at 1:34, the Bison went back in front courtesy another succesful five-meter penalty shot by Barron to make it 4-3. However, the pack from New York refused to lay down as Vuk Vujosevic (So., Belgrade, Serbia/Milos Crnjanski) unleashed the equalizer at 1:06 with the squads at even-strength as the Bison and Terriers went to their corners at halftime knotted at four-all.
The tie lasted for 46 seconds to start the third quarter before Gencic came alive for his first of three goals on the afternoon to put the Terriers ahead 5-4.
For St. Francis, the goal ignited the program's offense as Vujosevic (5:31), Dzigurski (2:32) and Liam Veazey (Fr., Dallas, Texas/Bryan Adams) (1:25) connected on scoring shots to cap off a 4-0 run to begin the second half and make it 8-4.
Bucknell answered the run with one of their own as Alex Nowlin (Jr., Coto de Caza, Calif./Tesoro) finished a six-on-five chance with 54 seconds on the clock to move the Bison within 8-5 at the conclusion of the third quarter.
The run continued to begin the fourth quarter as Barron (7:20) and Rookie of the Tournament Stefan Aleksic (Fr., Belgrade, Serbia/Sport Gymnasium) (6:18) rocketed in natural goals to cut St. Francis' lead down to 8-7.
Three and a half minutes later, the lead disappeared as Nowlin notched his second goal of the afternoon to close out the run and balance the scoreboard at eight-all with 2:40 left on the clock.
Neither team was able to find the back of the cage in regulation as Napleton and the Bison defense stymied the Terriers' offense on man-up chances at 2:18 and 1:06, while St. Francis and Mladenovic turned aside a man-up opportunity with 45 seconds left on the clock to bring on overtime.
Bucknell went back in front 26 seconds into the first OT frame as Jack Else (Jr., Lansdale, Pa./North Penn) broke loose for a point-blank shot and score at the 2:34 mark, but St. Francis answered at the 55 seconds mark as a line-drive by Gencic ticked off Stankovic and into the cage to equalize the score at nine-all.
Following back-and-forth play to begin the second overtime period during which Napleton and Mladenovic stiffled their opposing shooters, the Bison had a chance to go back in front.
After the ejection of David Lonnberg (So., Stockholm, Sweden/Kungsholmens Gymnasium) at 2:42 to put the Bison on the power-play, Bucknell worked the ball around the perimeter looking for an open shot. However, the Terriers' defense went on the prowl and sniffed out the play to keep the Bison from attempting a shot and force a turnover as the shot clock expired.
On the heels of a fruitless St. Francis man-up bid dat 1:48, Gencic rose to the occassion and earned his MVP status by skipping a pass to the right side from Stankovic up and over the left arm of Napleton with 1:25 on the clock for the championship and season deciding factor.
Bucknell had two chances over the final minute to put away a tying score and force sudden death, but Mladenovic stopped a shot on a man-up chance with 57 seconds to go. Regaining possession of the ball with 6.83 seconds left on the game clock, the Bison went again went on the power-play as Guram Nozadze (Sr., Stockholm, Sweden/Kungsholmens Gymnasium) made the lonely trek to the corner with three seconds left to hand the Bison one final chance on a man-up opportunity.
However, fate did not smile on the Bison as Nowlin's desperation heave as the clock expired sailed high over the crossbar and the outstretched hands of Mladenovic to crown the Terriers' the 2012 Collegiate Water Polo Association Eastern Champions.
Overall, the title marks Northern Division Champion St. Francis' third title in seven tries as the team previously captured the 2005 (10-9 W vs. Navy at Harvard University) and 2010 (8-4 W vs. Navy at Bucknell University) championships, while falling in the 1999 (vs. the University of Massachusetts), 2000 (13-12 L OT SD vs. Navy at Brown University), 2004 (3-2 L OT SD vs. Princeton at Bucknell) and 2007 (11-7 L vs. Navy at Harvard) tilts.
For the Southern Division Champion Bison, which were making their first appearance in the league title game since 1993, the five-time Eastern Champions (1975, 1977-80) have now had their two best most recent seasons end at the hands of St. Francis. In 2010, Bucknell suffered a 10-9 loss in the CWPA Eastern Championship semifinals at home in Lewisburg, Pa. to the Terriers which prevented the Bison from reaching that year's championship game. Similar to the 2010 meeting between the two programs, the dogs once again had their day against the Bison.
|No. 12 St. Francis College
|No. 15 Bucknell University
Brian Barron (4); Alex Nowlin (2); Jack Else; Stefan Aleksic; Mike
St. Francis Goals:
Marko Gencic (3); Vuk Vujosevic (2); Marko Dzigurski (2); Bosko
Stankovic (2); Liam Veazey
Saves: Bucknell - Matt Napleton (10) ; St. Francis - Igor Mladenovic (6)
Exclusions: Bucknell - 5 ; St. Francis - 13
Advantage Opportunities: Bucknell - 4-for-13 ; St. Francis - 1-for-5
Sprints: Bucknell - 6-for-6 ; St. Francis - 0-for-6
Cards: YC - St. Francis (Head Coach Igor Samardzija, 1:34 left in 2nd)
Officials: Alex Stankevitch, Michael Goldenberg
St. Francis College's Vuk Vujosevic (#5) and Marko Gencic (#10) celebrate a goal
Tournament Most Valuable Player Marko Gencic of St. Francis College
Bucknell University's Alex Nowlin collects a loose ball as St. Francis College's Jacob Barashick closes
St. Francis College goalie Igor Mladenovic stretches out for a save
Bucknell University goalie
2012 CWPA Eastern Champion - St. Francis College
2012 CWPA Eastern Champion -
St. Francis College