North Allegheny water polo teams perform well in host tournament
In a rare home appearance, the North Allegheny boys water polo team (12-3) took first place at the Tiger Classic tournament last weekend.
The girls (14-2) finished second.
Six boys teams and seven girls teams from Pennsylvania and Ohio competed.
North Allegheny — the lone school to offer water polo in the area — travels to most competitions.
“It was nice to play at home,” said Nikola Malezanov, who coaches both squads. “We could focus more on playing.”
The defending state champion boys team scored 54 points in four games before beating North Penn, 16-10, for the title.
“The offense is producing, but we have to get better on defense,” said junior Max Staresinic, who leads the Tigers with 72 goals this year.
In girls competition, North Allegheny won three games before losing to Cumberland Valley in the final, 11-5.
Both teams will travel to Cumberland Valley next weekend before returning home the next week for another tournament.
The players said there are advantages to competing at home.
“You get good support from friends and family,” senior Gabe Gaspar said.
Senior Mia Siclari said she enjoys taking naps at home between games.
The teams, who were leaders in the Western Conference, expect to receive automatic bids to the state championships, which will be Oct. 25-26 for the girls at North Penn and Nov. 1-2 for the boys at Cumberland Valley.
The girls finished fifth in the state a year ago.
Besides Staresinic, top players for the boys team include senior Nemanja Pljevancic (34 goals, 21 assists and 12 steals), Gaspar (30 goals, 25 assists and 14 steals), senior Dominic Moore (18 goals, 25 assists and 10 steals), senior Ryan Pieton (11 goals) and junior Daniel Moore (12 assists).
Junior Charles Ross (177 blocks) is goalkeeper.
Sophomore Esma Dollaku (53 goals, 12 assists, 30 steals) leads the girls.
“Esma has been doing very well and did great last year,” Malezanov said.
Other top players are Siclari (42 goals, 12 assists and 10 steals), junior Claire Washabaugh (22 goals, 26 assists and 14 steals), senior Abi Rubio (16 goals, 29 assists and 19 steals), sophomore Taylor McClellan (32 steals) and senior Chloe Baierl (15 assists and 13 steals).
Senior goalkeeper Kristen Bishop has 111 blocks and 31 steals.
Karen Kadilak is a contributing writer.