The men’s water polo team went 2-3 when they traveled to Santa Clara, Calif. to compete in the Santa Clara Rodeo. The Bison started by defeating host team No. 19 Santa Clara 10-7 and then dropped their next three decisions to Cal Baptist 6-5, No. 13 Air Force 9-6 and No. 4 Stanford 14-2. They bounced back in their final game of the invitational by besting No. 16 UC Davis 14-6. The Orange and Blue are now 11-13 as they head into championship season.
To kick off the weekend, the Orange and Blue faced Santa Clara. The Bison and Broncos played an even game throughout. The Bison gained an edge in the third quarter by outscoring the Broncos 5-3. Jack Else ’14 led the Bison in scoring with a hat trick. Mike Kimble ’14 and Nick Hale ’16 rounded out the Bison with multi-goal performances, netting two goals apiece.
“We were finally able to put together a solid set of games and that was a huge positive going into playoff season. Our team defense looked fantastic and our offense was really on point. If we can stick to our fundamentals and not get flustered during games, we should be able to make a run during the championship season,” Kimble said.
In their second game, the Orange and Blue lost to Cal Baptist. The teams traded goals regularly in the first two quarters, leading to a tie at half. The Orange and Blue scored the lone goal in the third quarter, taking a 5-4 advantage into the fourth. The Lancers held the Bison scoreless in the final quarter while scoring two goals of their own. Despite the loss, co-captain Matt Napleton ’13 looked strong in goal, recording 16 saves in the 32 minutes of play. Again, Else and Hale led the Orange and Blue offensive with two goals each. Else also tallied four ejections drawn. On defense, co-captain Brian Barron ’13 registered a team-high four steals in the contest.
The Orange and Blue fared worse in their second game of the day against Air Force. In the first half, the Falcons scored five times, while the Orange and Blue only found the back of the net once. Despite scoring five times in the second half, the Bison could not overcome the four goal first half deficit. The Orange and Blue had a very balanced attack against the Falcons with all six Bison goals coming from different players. Stefan Aleksic ’16 was high point man for the Bison with three points coming from one goal and two assists. In goal, Napleton recorded 15 saves.
“There were times in the weekend where we were not as focused as we should have been, and it showed in our play. Our offense was inconsistent. We showed flashes of brilliance and stretches of where we couldn’t get much going. We need to become more consistent offensively, which will in turn help our defense,” Napleton said.
Next, the Orange and Blue faced Stanford. The Orange and Blue were held scoreless in the first, second and fourth quarters. The two Bison goals came in the third from Aleksic and Kimble. Splitting time in goal, both Napleton and Keegan Williams ’15 made eight saves and allowed seven goals in 16 minutes of play.
The Bison showed their resilience in their final game of the weekend by defeating UC Davis. The Orange and Blue fell behind 4-2 early in the first quarter, but responded by rattling off 11 straight goals. By the time the Aggies ended the 11-0 run, the Orange and Blue had a 13-4 lead. The Bison dominated the second quarter, thanks to a tremendous effort from Aleksic, who had nine points from four goals and five assists. This placed him in a tie with Barron for the most points tallied by a Bison in a game. Julian Colina ’14, Kimble and Barron also had multi-goal games. In net, Napleton stopped 10 shots, pushing his career-high season save total to 252.
“The weekend gave us some good experience and confidence heading into the end of our season. We proved we can win against some high level competition, and that if we can bring a high level of focus to each game, we are a tough team to beat,” Napleton said.
The Orange and Blue will have a week off to train before hosting the Southern Championships on Nov. 2-4.