The Pennsylvania Boys State Water Polo Championships begin Friday, October 27th at Wilson High School in Reading, PA. There has not been a ton of surprises in the state this year as those who felt Wilson and North Penn would be the pre-season favorites have been correct all year. This year’s tournament will see lots of Seniors take a last crack at glory and a couple of teams well-positioned to pull off upsets. There is a log-jam of goaltenders who – if at the top of their game – can steal wins and steal a championship. And, there are a couple of dominant field players who will need best efforts from their supporting cast of teammates to win it all. But, these same players might – individually – take their games to levels not yet seen and be the difference in close games. There will be speed provided by some of the state’s top swimmers and there will be experience provided by coaches who’ve been at the helm through many title runs. It all adds up to a great time of the year for water polo in PA. Here is a quick roundup of the Round 1 games.

PA State Water Polo Championship – 1st Round – Friday, October 27, 2017

Game 1

2 North Penn vs. 7 LaSalle

North Penn is one of this year’s clear favorites with only two, one point losses to Number 1 seed Wilson. They have a little of everything; size, speed, strength, and talent.  Last year, they were good. This year they are better and more mature and do not plan to leave the tournament without the first place hardware. The Knights have gotten solid goaltending from Senior Zach Owens all year and feature several players who can post you up and make you look silly at 2 meters. But a player to watch out for is Sophomore Sean Fakish. Perhaps the top young talent in the state, Fakish is crafty, cagey and able to make a difference for the Knights as much as any upperclassman. The Knights first round opponent will be La Salle College, a perennial Pennsylvania swimming powerhouse and a water polo team that always has good, talented athletes. La Salle can give any team a scare, but North Penn owns some large victory margins over them this year and the first round game this year is not likely to be different. Expect North Penn to move on.

Game 2

1 Wilson vs. 8 Pennridge

For the host Wilson Bulldogs, everything is lined up well for a title run. They have an experienced Senior-lead team, they have the hometown crowd for support, and they will not have to manage any of the challenges that come with traveling. Also, they have established themselves throughout the year as the favorites to win it with their solid, consistent play. Wilson will play lots of kids with a grinder type mentality and will never let up. They press hard, counter all out and love to score close into the goal with their relentless driving and motion. Wilson has lost once in the year to North Allegheny and had two close wins over North Penn. As a result, they will not be overconfident. Wilson Senior goalie Caleb Degler will be one to watch. He is arguably the team’s most experienced player and has been a fixture in the net for years. He could be the difference for the Bulldogs. Wilson’s opponent, Pennridge, was third in the Eastern Conference this year, finishing just behind La Salle. Pennridge is likely to play everyone close, and they do own some close finishes with higher seeds. But, do not expect the first-round upset here, Wilson should prevail.

 Game 3

4 Cathedral Prep vs. 5 Governor Mifflin

The four/five game will feature Pacific Tiger recruit and the state’s top player, Cathedral Prep’s Calvin Behm. Since coming onto the scene in his freshman year, Behm has been one of the top water polo talents in the Eastern US and his senior year has not disappointed. He will lead a very successful Cathedral Prep team against Governor Mifflin. Mifflin is flat out tough and physical. They hustle everywhere, feature good outside shooting and just have a knack for staying in most games. Their most versatile player is Timothy Mangan, and he will do his best to cause problems all over the pool for Cathedral Prep. Prep has not beaten either of the top seeds this year but has beaten three-seed North Allegheny once. They also own a six-goal victory over Mifflin earlier in the year. Mifflin will throw the kitchen sink at Prep in a bid for the upset, and they have the players to do it. They are also right down the road from Wilson and will enjoy good home-cooking and rest in their own homes. But, Behm will be very difficult to stop and will likely be the difference. Advantage Cathedral Prep

Game 4

3 North Allegheny vs. 6 Cumberland Valley

The nightcap will be another potentially close-matched contest featuring two old foes in North Allegheny and Cumberland Valley. These two teams on the boy’s side, always seem to be matched in important games. So far on the year, North Allegheny has had the advantage with two wins over CV. And, North Allegheny is playing its best polo of the year; last week they logged a Western Conference Championship win over Cathedral Prep, and two weeks ago they beat the top seed, Wilson. The Tigers are solid enough in all phases of the game to beat anyone and have proven it. But like so many teams this year, the margin for error is minimal. CV is always well coached, ready to play and is last year’s state champion. It could be said that over the past 8 or so years they have been the state’s best and most consistently competitive program. But, North Allegheny’s defense is solid, and they have been getting good goaltending all year. They are also opportunistic on offense, and this will probably give them an advantage in Round 1.

Stay tuned for more on the title run in Pennsylvania and we welcome you to the conversation about Pennsylvania polo on our Message Board.