The North Allegheny Tigers are winning… again. This time the boy’s water polo team captured the Pennsylvania State Championship on November 2nd. The Tigers defeated Cumberland Valley with a score of 12-11. This comes as the second consecutive state title the team has won over Cumberland Valley. Last year North Allegheny defeated the Eagles 12-9.
The Tigers entered the tournament as a number one seed. Head coach Nikola Malezanov said the seed was well deserved considering the rebuilding the team went through in the off season. “We were one of the favorites but we knew that it will be hard since we lost 7 seniors last year. The fact that we managed to rebuild and win it again says a lot about this team.” They faced LaSalle in the first round on Friday night and conquered the Explorers 20-15. Early Saturday morning the team advanced to the finals with a 15-7 victory over Wilson High School.
Saturday night the Tigers entered a crowded natatorium full of zealous fans to face off against the Cumberland Valley Eagles. After each team introduced their powerful starting lineups and our great country’s national anthem boomed over the loudspeakers, the teams dove into the pool ready to pounce on the competition.
North Allegheny got off to a quick start, with senior Zach Buerger scoring the first two goals giving the Tigers a 2-0 advantage. By the end of the half North Allegheny led Cumberland Valley 8-6. The start of the third quarter started to heat up the game. Cumberland Valley’s Tommy Best keenly scored closing the gap 8-7. This was the start of a scoring battle that lasted throughout the third quarter. North Allegheny still led at the end but only by one point with the score at 10-9. After a pep talk by Coach Malezanov the Tigers entered the fourth quarter and notched two goals, scored by Buerger and junior Max Starsenic. However, Cumberland Valley kept battling, scoring two goals closing the gap yet again to a North Allegheny one point lead at 12-11 with less than one minute remaining. Coach Malezanov took a timeout with 0:10 left in hopes of motivating the Tigers to hold their lead and claim the state title for another year.
The Tigers’ last timeout ended and the team slipped back into the pool. The finals seconds ticked away as the Tigers’ defense played tenaciously to keep the Eagles from scoring– and it worked. The clock buzzed, sounding the end of the game and crowning North Allegheny state champions for the second year in a row. The team–and Coach Malezanov– jumped into the pool celebrating the well deserved victory.
The team’s success continued out of the pool too. Six tigers were named to all-state teams. Max Starsenic, in addition to being named Mr. Water Polo, Nemanja Pljevanci, and Gabe Gaspar earned All-State First-Team recognition. Charles Ross garnered Second-Team. Daniel Moore and Dominic Moore received an Honorable Mention recognition.
The boys’ fantastic season was capped off with a well deserved state championship. Coach Malezanov explained “The two state championships put a lot of pressure on the young athletes for next year. I think the will do well though. It was great to see our team give their best at the most important moments of the season.”