Goal with Seconds Remaining Caps Wagner Men’s Water Polo Huge Comeback over St. Francis Brooklyn

A flock of Seahawks fully committed to winning. Photo Courtesy: Wagner Athletics

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

PRINCETON, NJ. In a match that encompassed all the thrills and frustrations that a physical game like water polo has to offer, the Wagner Seahawks rallied from a five-goal deficit on the strength of six goals by junior Oscar Nomura to stun St. Francis Brooklyn 10-9 Friday night, part of a full day of polo at the Princeton Invitational.

Wagner went 1-1 for the day, absorbing a 21-6 loss to #2 UCLA in the morning. The Bruins also scrimmaged #4 Stanford; the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rivals will not officially face each other until later in the season, likely at the MPSF Invitational (October 12 – 14). The Cardinal opened their season earlier in the day, dominating the host Tigers 21-3.

A Terrier first half offensive explosion, which produced an early 6-1 lead, was not a true indicator of just how competitive these two New York City programs are. Behind a stunning comeback—including six straight goals over the final four minutes of the second half and first four of the third—the Seahawks, in just their third year in existence, were able to take down one of the East’s top programs.

Following his team’s heart-stopping win, Wagner Head Coach Chris Radmonovich credited both his big gun as well as a resilient team effort.

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Wagner’s Chris Radmonovich. Photo Courtesy: Wagner Athletics

“Oscar had a great game; he stepped up when we had a lot of people in foul trouble—players that have typically been good scorers for us,” Radmonovich said after the match. “The boys played tough—at the end there we had four or five starters out on exclusions. They really stepped up at the end to get a nice win over a very good team.”

Tenacity was key to Wagner’s’ success; leading scorer Jasmina Kolasinac (1 goal) was lost to exclusions early in the 3rd period, one of four Seahawks to be kicked out by game’s end. The war of attrition also claimed Radmonovich, assessed a red card with three minutes remaining in the match and the teams tied at 9. Despite his relative inexperience, assistant coach Ciaran Wolohan—hired last July after a stellar playing career on Staten Island ended in the spring—had the presence of mind to take a time out with 41 second left in the game and 15 seconds remaining on the shot clock.

When play restarted, Nomura passed up a contested shot in favor of senior Cole Grady, whose twisting skip shot handcuffed St. Francis goalie Benedek Molnar and hit the back of the net.

“Honestly, I thought Oscar was gonna shoot it,” the senior from Boca Raton, Florida said. “There were a few seconds left on the shot clock and I shot it. And it went in.”

In a decided understatement, Grady added: “It felt really good.”

“If you’re only going to score one, the game-winner’s a nice one to have,” said Grady’s coach. “You can’t pick a better time.”

St. Francis had reason to be despondent at game’s end; despite missing Botond Kadar, their top scoring option, the Terriers appeared unstoppable for almost two periods. Newcomer Djorde Stanic torched the Seahawk defense for three goals in in a little less than a period and a half, part of a four-goal outburst on the evening.

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Djorde Stanic playing for the Serbian Junior National Team in 2016. Photo Courtesy: FINA

“You don’t see that often,” St. Francis Brooklyn Head Coach Bora Dimitrov said about the spectacular play of his talented freshman, then—lamenting a golden opportunity for his team’s first win of the season—he added: “You also don’t see that often that you go up 6-1 and lose the game.”

A team is more than the sum of its individual parts; St. Francis, with a roster of Brazilians, Croats, Hungarians, Serbs, Spaniards as well as Americans, is challenged to impose a common understanding among a group of dissimilar players.

“We have some talented players, there’s no doubt about that. But we need to get there as a team,” said Dimitorv, now in his second year in Brooklyn Heights. “Our biggest concern is how to fit all those guys from different backgrounds on to the same team and play a stable game for four quarters.”

Looking past his immediate disappointment, Dimitrov understood that with three new starters in his line-up—Stanic, attacker Matheus Santos from Brazil and goalie Molnar from Hungary—that patience will be the most important quality for his team early in the season.

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Bora Dimitrov. Photo Courtesy: Lisa T Yen

“We’re just going to be patient until they click because that’s the only thing we can do at this point,” he said.

For Wagner, the time for waiting is over. After two years of development the Seahawks are eager for the next step: an NCAA playoff berth. That’s a goal that Grady is ready to embrace.

“We definitely are one of the grinding teams out there,” he said in the stands, with his proud parents looking on “We started from the bottom and are trying to make it to the top.”

2 Comments

2 comments

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Author: Michael Randazzo

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Michael Randazzo is a freelance contributor at Swimming World focusing on water polo. He covers polo all over the United States for SW and other publications, including the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Skip Shot, The New York Times, Total Water Polo, Water Polo Planet and others. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children and roots for St. Francis Brooklyn polo.

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