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North Allegheny water polo team wins state championship

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
The North Allegheny boys water polo team celebrates its state championship. Coach Nikola Malezanov is on the far right and assistant coach Corky Semler is third from the left. Courtesy of Robert S. Shirley
State boys Water Polo Coach of the Year Nikola Malezanov accepts a heave-ho celebratory dunk by the state-champion North Allegheny team. Courtesy of Robert S. Shirley
North Allegheny boys water polo team co-captains Domenic Caputo, Steven Siclari, Alex Shaffer and Rob Clinger accept their team’s first-place plaque and trophy after the team won the state tournament.. Courtesy of Robert S. Shirley

Seniors on the North Allegheny boys water polo team thought it was just a matter of time before the team captured its first state title.

Their prediction proved true when the Tigers won the state water polo championship Nov. 6 at North Penn High School in Lansdale, Montgomery County.

North Allegheny, the West Conference champion, breezed through the tournament.

After beating North Penn and Erie Cathedral Prep convincingly, the Tigers defeated defending champion Cumberland Valley in the final, 12-9.

“We (North Allegheny seniors) envisioned this as freshmen (who) had been playing together since fifth and sixth grade on a club team,” said Steven Siclari, who scored North Allegheny's first goal in the final.

“We developed a lot over the course of the season,” senior captain Rob Clinger said. “Some of us have been playing for seven years now and have been gradually stepping up our game every chance we get.

“We showed a lot of commitment to finishing our high school careers successfully.”

North Allegheny was one of eight teams — and the only one from the area — that competed. The Tigers qualified after winning the Western Conference title last month at North Allegheny, where they also beat Cumberland Valley in the final, 13-10.

The North Allegheny boys placed third in the state last year.

“Winning the state title is obviously a great success (for) this generation of players,” said Nikola Malezanov, in his second year as North Allegheny coach.

“But the satisfaction that all the water polo people around (North Allegheny) and all the coaches that were involved (feel) is indescribable.”

Corky Semler, co-founder of the water polo program and longtime swimming coach at North Allegheny, agreed the team came a long way.

“(It is indescribable) knowing what we went through starting the program in August of 2011 with kids (who) knew nothing about the sport to being the finest team in the state 12 years later,” he said.

“Our athletic director, Bob Bozzuto, has been instrumental in supporting the program and allowing (it) to grow.”

Bozzuto also said he was pleased with the team's success.

“I am very proud of our boys for not only winning the state championship, but (for) conducting themselves with dignity and class throughout the season,” Bozzuto said.

In a rebuilding year, the North Allegheny girls team finished fifth at the state championship last month at Cumberland Valley.

After losing in the quarterfinals, the tigers downed Cumberland Valley, 11-9, in a game to determine fifth place.

“We're losing only two seniors and should be really good next year,” junior Mia Siclari, 16, said.

The girls team finished third in the state a year ago.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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