Courtesy: Mount St. Mary’s Athletics
EMMITSBURG, Md. (January 22, 2021) – A pair of games one year in the making will commence Saturday, as the Mount St. Mary’s men’s water polo team will play their first-ever opponents.
The men’s season – usually contested in the fall – has moved to the winter, and has been truncated to accommodate both a men’s and women’s season in the second semester.
SETTING THE SCENE
The Mount announced the addition of water polo teams in January 2020 and the hiring of head coach Alyssa Diacono this past March. Over the past 10 months, she has overseen the recruitment of student-athletes to make up the inaugural teams, hired Justin Vink as an assistant coach, and organized and reorganized the team’s maiden schedule – all while navigating the pandemic.
10 players make up the team, hailing from six states and three international countries. Two are graduate students that competed for the Mount’s swimming & diving team as undergrads. Kacper Cieplik (Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada), Brock Cudahy (Manassas, Va.), Ben Dable (St. Louis, Mo.), Jason Fitch (Middle River, Md.), Marko Kruska (Belgrade, Serbia), Joseph Maxson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Jason O’Donnell (Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada), Matthew Schwanke (Glen Rock, Pa.), Eli Thalos (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Will Twizell (Adelaide, Australia) make up the squad.
NCAA water polo games are broken down into four quarters or eight minutes each, adding overtime periods and golden goal, sudden-victory scenarios with additional OT’s. Teams play seven-on-seven, with six attackers and defenders, along with a goalkeeper.
SCOUTING GANNON AND SALEM
Gannon’s Golden Knights excelled in the fall of 2019, going 18-4 with a 6-0 conference mark. They went on to defeat Mercyhurst and McKendree to win the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) West Division title. Serbian Drago Marjanovic led with 63 goals on 100 shots, as well as 28 assists. But Gannon will be without second-leading scorer Thomas Squeglia, who graduated after the season.
Salem, the weekend’s hosts, finished .500 in 2019, going 12-12 and 4-2 in conference play. The Tigers face a bigger challenge than the Golden Knights in replacing top scorers, after their top three scorers graduated. With 67 points (38 goals, 29 assists), Petar Leontijevic is their premier returning athlete. Coach Vink came to the Mount from West Virginia, where he worked with the Tigers as a graduate assistant.
As of right now, Mount St. Mary’s is scheduled to play seven regular season games. They will host Mercyhurst and Gannon on February 6th at the ARCC Swimming Pool, and revisit Salem on Valentine’s Day Weekend. All dates/times are subject to change due to COVID-19.