Men’s water polo ends second-best season with sudden death OT loss

Bri Pomonis, Staff Writer

The men’s water polo team completed one of the most successful seasons in program history on Nov. 26 at the NCAA Championship Play-In Game in a sudden victory overtime 13-12 loss to Harvard. A season record of 23-4 before the game left the Orange and Blue No. 12 nationally, with Harvard taking the upper hand for the second time this season.

Scoring streaks alternated between teams throughout the game. The Bison totaled four of the first five goals, but Harvard eagerly responded with a 9-2 run. Desperate to extend the game further, the Bison tallied three more goals to narrow the score within a point at 10-9 Harvard. In the final 16 seconds, Rade Joksimovic ’20 tied the game after retrieving a rebound from his previous attempt, pushing the game into overtime.

Joksimovic and captain Marko Djordjevic ’19 each tallied a goal during the three-minute overtime period. Harvard answered with two goals in the last 55 seconds of the second overtime period, evening the score once again and pushing the game into sudden victory. The Crimson was ultimately able to take home the victory after a game-winning goal came two minutes into the overtime.

Despite ending the season with a close loss, the men’s water polo team’s accomplishments this season set the bar high for future seasons and left players proud of their work. The Bison qualified for NCAA Championships for the sixth time in program history, the last time being in 1985. The season’s record of 23-5 marks the most wins since going 25-9 in 1985.

“It’s a great feeling to finish my water polo career doing something that that hasn’t been done in 35 years. Obviously we would have liked to go further in the NCAAs, but ending my career with a conference championship and a hard fought loss isn’t a bad way to go out,” captain Sean Daley ’17 said.

Perhaps one of the most notable features of this season was the talent from underclassmen recruits.

“We had a talented group of freshmen this year, some of who contributed a lot to the success of the team this year, and others who will be big contributors in the future. Having [Joksimovic] on your team doesn’t hurt either,” Daley said.

One of the season’s biggest feats was an incredible season-long performance by Joksimovic. Hailing from Novi Sad, Serbia, Joksimovic finished his premiere season with 154 goals and 184 points in 28 games. This impressive record earned him the titles of Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference East Region Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

“The water polo I used to play in Serbia is a lot faster and a lot stronger, so I knew it would not be the same. At the same time, I could never imagine being an MVP or Rookie of the Year,” Joksimovic said.

On how this season sets him up for the next three years, Joksimovic said, “I think this kind of start will just make my future harder in water polo because coaches of other schools pay more attention to me and my style of playing.”

After the conclusion of their impressive record-breaking season, the Bison will return to action next fall, lacking the four current seniors.

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