Southern championships: Men’s water polo finishes in fourth, secures bid for CWPA championship

Eve Wulf, Staff Writer

On Nov. 6-8, the men’s water polo team hosted the Southern Championships in Kinney Natatorium. The No. 2 seed Bison were unable to win a championship at home. The No. 1 seed Princeton Tigers reaffirmed their ranking by coming in first place in the 11-team field after beating No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins in the championship game.

Although the Bison were unable to win a championship at home, the team was still able to secure a spot in the CWPA Championship on Nov. 20-22  by defeating Washington and Jefferson (W&J) and Penn State Behrend.

The Orange and Blue started strong by beating W&J 18-9 on Nov. 6 in the opening game of the tournament. The Bison did not trail once throughout the game. In goal, Charlie Niehaus ’18 recorded eight saves. Sean Daley ’17 and Jeff Hagen ’18 had four goals apiece, with three of Daley’s goals being scored consecutively within the opening quarter. Nate Hunter ’17, Stefan Aleksic ’16, Marko Djordjevic ’19, and Tommy Stupp ’18 each scored two goals, and Ratimir Babic ’17 and Danny Farmer ’19 each had one goal in the all-conquering victory. Babic also had four assists. The Bison collected 15 steals in the game, with six of those steals coming from Daley and Stupp, who each contributed three.

On Nov. 7, the Bison proved formidable yet again in a 14-6 win against the Penn State Behrend Lions. The Bison are now 9-0 against the Lions and have outscored them 129-19. The Bison shut out the Lions and scored eight goals in the first quarter, with three of those goals scored by Aleksic just 3:27 into the game. In addition, Stupp and R.J. Moore ’17 each contributed two goals and Daley contributed one in the team’s forceful first quarter. For the remainder of play, Johnathan Coleman ’19 had two goals and Hunter, Djordjevic, Max Wilder ’16, and Hagen each scored one in the team’s victory against the Lions. Niehaus summed eight saves. The win against Penn State Behrend advanced the Orange and the Blue to the semifinal round of the Southern Championships and earned them a spot in the CWPA Championship.

Despite dominant efforts in the first two games of the Southern Championships, the Bison did not prove as forceful against Johns Hopkins in the semifinals, losing 8-4 against the Blue Jays. The Orange and Blue led 3-2 after the first quarter, with two goals coming from Hunter and another from Aleksis. The Bison were  only able to score one more goal from Moore against the Blue Jays, who were able to resurge and net six more goals in their win over the Bison.

Although the Bison could not beat Johns Hopkins to advance to the championship game in their own pool, the team was given another chance to assert its dominance in a third-place game against No. 4 seed Navy. Unfortunately, the Orange and Blue fell to Navy 15-13. The Bison trailed 13-11 until the final two minutes of regulation play, but goals by Djordjevic and Babic in those final minutes gave them another chance.

The game was undoubtedly physical and the Bison totaled 20 ejections, which put them at a deficit since Hunter, Aleksic, and Daley were unable to participate in overtime. In regulation play, that trio collectively tallied four goals, one assist, and seven steals. Three of those goals came from Aleksic, who now has a career 202 goals, placing him 10th on the Bison all-time list. The Bison were only able to manage five shots in the two overtime periods, allowing Navy to secure third place in the Southern Championships.

Despite the Bison’s fourth-place finish, the team was still able to gain an automatic berth to the CWPA Championship, which will take place Nov. 20-22 at MIT. Performance in the CWPA Championships will determine the conference’s automatic NCAA berth.

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