PRINCETON, N.J. -- Svetozar Stefanovic (Sr., Belgrade, Serbia/Russian Embassy) scored five times, including a pair in overtime, to claim Player of the Game accolades as the No. 14 Bears of Brown University took out the No. 17 Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy, 9-8 OT, to claim the fifth place game of the 2012 Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Eastern Championship at Princeton University's DeNunzio Pool.
The lead was a war from the opening sprint to the closing horn as the Bears (29-4) needed to overcome a 7-6 deficit with less than a minute to play to force overtime and claim the dramatic win.
Trailing by one at 7-6 following a man-up blow by Paul Pedrotty (Sr., Coronado, Calif./Coronado) at the 3:15 mark of the fourth quarter, the Bears' offense growled back as Nick Deaver (So., Orinda, Calif./Miramonte) unleashed a missle that drew nothing but net and water with 34 seconds on the clock to knot the score.
Navy (23-6) had a shot to claim the win in regulation, but the Brown defense stiffened to prevent the Midshipmen by putting a shot on cage to bring on a pair of three-minute OT periods.
Following a scoreless first overtime period, the Bears break the deadlock with 2:43 remaining in the second OT frame as Tyler Thein (Sr., Timonium, Md./Loyola Blakefield) was whistled for a penalty and Stefanovic converted on the one-on-one chance with Navy goalie Anthtony Gutierrez (Sr., Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) for an 8-7 lead.
The Midshipmen pulled even at eight-all with 27 seconds on the clock via a tally by Archie Warren (Sr,, Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall College) to make sudden death overtime more probable. However, Stefanovic thrilled the Brown fans and silenced the Navy faithful 12 seconds later by uncorking a blast that Gutierrez was unable to stop for the game-winner.
Navy had one final chance to balance the scoreboard and keep its season alive, but a desperation pool-length heave came up high, wide and long to allow Brown to claim the win.
Overall, only three Bears found the back of the cage as Deaver posted a hat-trick and Henry Fox (So., Mercer Island, Wash./Lakeside School) tacked on a solo marker to join Stefanovic in accounting for Brown's offensive output.
The hero of the game, if not the Player of the Contest, was goalie Walker Shockley (Jr., Diamond Bar, Calif./Damien) who registered 18 saves to earn the win. On the other side of the tank, Gutierrez nearly equaled his compatriate between the pipes as the senior notched 16 stops in his final game in the Blue & Gold.
Offense was not the highlight in the early moments of the contest as the Midshipmen jumped on the scoreboard with 2:14 left in the first quarter via a man-up marker by Pedrotty for the only strike over the first eight minutes of action.
Following 3:41 of continued scoreless water polo in the second quarter, Navy built the lead to a pair of goals as Jesse Walker (Sr., Seattle, Wash./Seattle Academy) stung the Bears with a rising shot that tied up Shockley to go up 2-0.
Brown cut the lead to one nearly two minutes later when Stefanovic broke the ice for the Bears with a man-up goal at 2:25, but the Midshipmen fired back with a natural tally by Pedrotty at 2:10 to carry a 3-1 lead into halftime.
The margin expanded to 4-1 in the dawning moments of the second half as Pedrotty popped in a penalty shot at 6:11, but Brown responded at 3:53 with a man-up marker by Fox to return the gap to a pair at 4-2.
Navy and Brown then traded goals to the conclusion of the third quarter with Pedrotty connecting on an even-strength shot at 2:14 to make it 5-2 before Stefanovic cashed in on a Midshipmen error to bury a six-on-five chance at 1:22 to return the deficit to two at 5-3.
Pedrotty appeared to set the wheels in motion for a Midshipmen victory to start the fourth quarter by lining a five-meter penalty shot to the rear of Shockley at 7:25, but Brown refused to lose.
Down by three at 6-3, Brown rallied back as Deaver dumped in a man-up goal at 6:34 before Stefanovic roped an even-strengh blast into the mesh at 4:44 to pull the Bears within one at 6-5.
It took Deaver 33 seconds after Stefanovic's marker to erase the Mids' lead and make it a game as he spun a shot into the cage at 4:09 following the third ejection of Cort Jones (Sr., Crofton, Md./South River) to post the equalizer and set-up the dramatic finale.
The final result for the Midshipmen ends a run of success unmatched in league history as every Navy senior class since the 2000 crew had captured at least one CWPA Eastern Championship during their four-year tenure in Annapolis. In their three previous seasons, the Class of 2013 finished as the league runner-up to Princeton (2009 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011 at Harvard University) and St. Francis College (2010 at Bucknell University) prior to finishing sixth in 2012. The 12-year run marked the longest single-session of senior classes with title rings in league history.
--Courtesy of the CWPA