The men’s water polo team competed against St. Francis Brooklyn, George Washington, and Johns Hopkins in three consecutive games on Nov. 21-23 at the CWPA Championship in Annapolis, Md., winning two of the three and earning fifth place. The Bison concluded their season with a record of 17-9, signifying their first time ending a campaign with single-digit losses since 1985.
In the first game of the weekend, the Orange and Blue could not hold on to an early lead and suffered an 8-7 defeat to St. Francis. The Bison entered the match ranked 13th nationally, but the 19th-ranked Terriers were able to exploit the Bison’s defensive lapses in the second half by finding the back of the net repeatedly.
Early goals by Sean Daley ’17 and Stefan Aleksic ’16 boosted the Orange and Blue to a quick lead, and their efforts were followed by goals from Grant Curry ’18 and Ratimir Babic ’17 to give the Bison a cushion at halftime. Unfortunately, a dominant Terrier effort was able to outshine the Orange and Blue defense in the following two quarters.
“They scored the first goal of the second half and the momentum shifted to them. We just couldn’t find the back of the net and couldn’t hold the lead,” Daley said.
The Orange and Blue took on George Washington the following day and were able to bounce back from their loss with a 10-7 victory. The Orange and Blue trailed 6-5 before entering the fourth quarter, but a dominating offensive presence in the game’s concluding minutes resulted in the three-goal win.
Goals by Jeff Hagen ’18, Curry, and Aleksic boosted the team past the Colonials’ commanding lead. Goalkeeper Keegan Williams ’15 prevented George Washington from finding the back of the net for the remainder of the game and put the team in position to take on Johns Hopkins.
In the final game of the weekend, the Bison followed up with an early lead to secure an 11-5 victory against Johns Hopkins.
“In the second two games, we were able to win the second half and dominate the fourth quarter, something that didn’t happen in our first game. We were able to finish the games, and that made the difference,” Ken Wattana ’15 said.
Aleksic, Hagen, and Daley had multi-goal games and contributed to much of the Bison success on the day. The team also put forth an outstanding defensive performance by keeping the Blue Jays out of the net for the final six minutes of the game. This was their 11th consecutive top-five finish at the event.
Wattana offered advice for next year’s team that will hopefully lead to a sixth-consecutive finish come next fall.
“Always stay hungry for the Eastern Championship. If the team buys into what Coach [John] McBride is doing and commits to being great, it will win a championship,” Wattana said.