Men’s water polo splits season opening games against Naval Academy

Anna Carroll, Senior Writer

The Bison men’s water polo team had the opportunity to compete this past weekend for the first time since the fall of 2019. The No. 10-ranked Bison split with their No. 9 rivals, the United States Navy Academy in Annapolis, each taking home one win from a set of back-to-back games. The Orange and Blue were able to clutch a close 12-11 victory in overtime over the Midshipmen in game one, but the latter came back strong in the second game, defeating the Bison 15-5.

The Orange and Blue came ready to compete after their season was put on pause for the two weeks leading up to competition, owing to the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak on campus that saw over 190 active cases. Despite this setback, the Bison took an early 2-0 lead with Josh Yardley ’22 scoring at the 2:36 mark. Goalie Adrien Touzout ’23 was also a big help for the Bison in the first period, contributing six clutch saves in the cage. Goals from Yardley, Ethan Jones ’24, Jack Lewis ’22, and Doruk Ozar ’24, gave the Orange and Blue a 5-2 lead over the Midshipmen at the halftime horn.

Andu Vlasceanu ’23 found the back of the cage at the onset of the second half to bring the lead to 6-2. The Bison kept the heat coming and were able to maintain an 8-4 score, with goals from Vlasceanu and Matt Blackwell ’21. It was during the end of the third period that Navy came back and pulled within one goal of the Bison to start the fourth period neck and neck. The Midshipmen tied it up with only 3:16 left in the game, but Vlasceanu was quick to respond with a goal of his own for the Bison, bringing them ahead 10-9. It was Navy’s Isaac Salinas who scored with just 31 seconds remaining to bring the score to 10-10 and the first game to overtime.

Navy took its first lead of the game to start the overtime period, but Jared Stanley ’21, put in two huge goals for the Bison, giving them a 12-11 lead – and the eventual win over Navy.

“We hadn’t practiced as a team for the previous two weeks, so we went into the game with no expectations and nothing to lose. Being able to play for the first time in over a year was amazing, and getting a win over Navy with unexpected circumstances felt great. We worked hard as a team and showed we can compete even in difficult situations,” Stanley said.

After a very close first game, Navy came out ready to prove themselves in the second round of the day. The Midshipmen raced to a 10-2 lead, eventually clinching a 15-5 win over the Orange and Blue to split for the weekend. Yardley, Ozar, Stanley, Liam Stott ’24 and Walker Butler ’24, all pitched in a goal during the game. Stott’s goal gave the Bison a brief lead of 2-1 early on in the game, but Navy came back with eight straight goals, helping Navy take a commanding 10-2 lead. Touzout helped the Bison with 8 saves in the cage for the Bison in the defeat.

“We went to Navy prepared to give our best and to represent the school. I like to think that we did that, and that we made Bucknell proud this weekend,” Vlasceanu said.

The Bison will now turn their attention to the upcoming weekend in MAWPC regional play. Times and opponents are to be determined.

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