North Allegheny boys water polo captures 2nd straight state title
In a twist, a flattering remark about North Allegheny junior Max Staresinic was added to results from the state boys water polo championship earlier this month.
“He's pretty good ... just (saying),” a scorekeeper wrote online.
Staresinic, a center, scored seven goals, including two late in the game, as North Allegheny beat host Cumberland Valley, 12-11, for its second straight Pennsylvania Water Polo title.
Staresinic, who scored 116 goals this season, was named Mr. Water Polo as the state's most valuable player. In the playoffs, he had 22 goals.
“Max has been playing at a high level for awhile,” coach Nikola Malezanov said. “Other teams tried to shut him down.
“He works hard, is talented and is well educated about water polo.”
In the state final, Staresinic scored twice to help North Allegheny regain the lead after Cumberland Valley tied the contest, 9-9, in the second half.
Senior Zach Buerger, who had three goals and three assists, also scored late.
Seniors Nemanja Pljevancic and Dominic Moore accounted for the other points, with Pljevancic's goal coming on a penalty shot.
Pljevancic, a Serbian exchange student, also had four steals.
“Everybody's contributions helped,” said Malezanov, in his third year as coach.
One of eight teams competing, North Allegheny, the Western Conference champion, advanced to the final by beating LaSalle, 20-15, and Governor Wilson, 15-7.
North Allegheny and Cumberland Valley, the Central Conference champion, also met in last year's title game, which North Allegheny won, 12-9.
“Things were tougher this year,” said senior Gabe Gaspar, North Allegheny's second leading scorer with 51 goals and a team-high 51 assists. “Last year, we had a core of players who had been together (since middle school).”
“Every team was improving and we were rebuilding,” Staresinic said. “It was a nice accomplishment we won.”
Staresinic, Gaspar and Pljevancic were named first-team all-state, as well as first-team all-conference.
Pljevancic (63) ranked second in goals for North Allegheny.
Junior Charles Ross, who had 301 blocks as goalkeeper this year, was a second-team all-state and first-team all-conference selection.
Dominic Moore and junior Daniel Moore made honorable mention all-state. Dominic Moore also was named first-team all-conference.
Buerger, Daniel Moore and senior Ryan Pieton were second-team all-conference picks.
Sophomore Esma Dollaku, a member of the North Allegheny girls team, was named women's first-team all-state. Dollaku (65 goals) was the top scorer for the Tigers, who finished fifth in the state tournament at North Penn in Montgomery County last month.
Seniors Mia Siclari and Abi Rubio were second and third-team all-state selections, respectively.
Senior goalkeeper Kristen Bishop (189 blocks) made honorable mention all-state.
Junior Claire Washabaugh joined Bishop, Dollaku, Rubio and Siclari as first-team all-Western Conference.
Senior Chloe Baierl, junior Morgan Soulia and sophomore Taylor McClellan were second-team all-conference selections.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.