Eagles top Loyola for MIAA water polo crown; Sweeney scores four goals


2017 MIAA WATER POLO CHAMPIONS – MCDONOGH SCHOOL EAGLES

Trailing in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s MIAA A water polo title match to a Loyola Blakefield squad that won in resounding fashion a couple of weeks ago, McDonogh School’s hopes were fading.

The Eagle seniors wanted no part of that. McDonogh rallied for a 10-9 decision over the Dons inside Henry A. Rosenburg Aquatic Center in Owings Mills.

Jack Sweeney led the Eagles with four goals, including the game-winner with 28 seconds left in regulation, and senior Tristan Fujimura finished with four goals. Tiernan Brunner had a game-high five goals for Loyola.

McDonogh (14-1 overall) scored the final three goals of regulation to win its second straight title. It’s the first back-to-back in the league since the Dons won in 2009 and 2010.

Eagles coach Matt Newton said his senior class, featuring Sweeney, Fujimura, Alexander Zuga, goalie Myles Pearson and Wesley Dahn, answered the call.

“We knew we could do it and they just got it done,” said Newton.  “They have a lot of heart.”

“We talked about it every game, just stay composed no matter what happens,” said Sweeney. “If we go up by a few goals, we down by a few goals, just stay composed.”

Loyola led 9-7 with 6 minutes left in regulation after Brunner scored his fifth goal. The Eagles quickly answered.

Thirty seconds later, Matthew Shiels brought McDonogh within 9-8. Pearson stopped a point-blank Don shot, and Sweeney finished a pass from Dahn, tying the game with 4:56 to play.

McDonogh called a timeout with 1:37 remaining. Sweeney ripped a shot past Dons goalie Brandon Elliott, giving McDonogh its first lead since the second quarter.

Zuga got his hand on Patrick Galvez’s attempt with one second remaining.

Loyola (12-7) handed the Eagles their only loss, 15-7, Oct. 12 at Blakefield after McDonogh won the round one, 16-11, in September.

With both teams at 100-percent, the rubber match Saturday was tight. There were eight ties and eight lead changes.

“We’re two evenly matched teams. No one on Loyola’s team had a big game, I don’t think anyone on McDonogh had a bad game,” said Loyola coach Keith Schertle. “To their credit, Sweeney had an outstanding game and we gave him some looks we shouldn’t had given him.”

Newton said close matches with Gilman and Gonzaga College (DC) late in the regular season helped the Eagles through Saturday’s match. McDonogh and Loyola will compete at Eastern Water Polo Championships next weekend.

“We always talk about one-goal games. Over my career, we probably had like 30 one-goal games and been on the losing side a bunch of times,” said Sweeney. “Feels good to be on the winning side especially in the championship.”