Following their first place finish at the Southern Championships, the No. 15 men’s water polo team put out another elite performance at the Eastern Championship in Princeton, N.J. After defeating Harvard and No. 20 Princeton, the Orange and Blue fell in overtime to No. 12 St. Francis (N.Y.). The Bison had not reached the Eastern Championship finals since 1993.
The Orange and Blue began their play with a 15-13 win against Harvard. The Bison beat Harvard twice earlier in the season by a combined 10 goals. Alex Nowlin ’14 led the Bison, registering four goals and three assists in the contest. Brian Barron ’13 also had a good showing, adding two goals and five assists of his own. Stefan Aleksic ’16, with three goals and two assists, and Nick Hale ’16, with two goals and three assists, showed the strength of the underclassmen as well. Matt Napleton ’13 performed strongly in goal, making seven saves.
Although the Orange and Blue jumped out to an early three goal lead, they had to overcome a two goal deficit in the second half to pick up the win against Harvard, the fourth seed in the Northern Division.
The Bison survived a much tougher test the next day, when they beat Princeton 7-6 in the semifinal. Aleksic scored the eventual game-winning goal with just 1:48 left to play. He was the only Bison to score twice in the match. The game featured five lead changes and no team ever led by more than two goals. Going into the fourth quarter, the game was tied 5-5. The Orange and Blue then had goals from Barron and Aleksic, while only surrendering one goal, allowing them to hang on for the win.
While there were no particular offensive standouts, the Bison had a balanced attack as six different players ended up on the score sheet. Napleton had another superb night in goal, racking up 11 saves and a steal against the Princeton attack.
The second win of the weekend for the Bison sealed their meeting in the final with No. 12 St. Francis (N.Y.). The Orange and Blue had faced them twice already this season, losing both contests by just one goal. Unfortunately, their third meeting would be more of the same, as the Bison fell 10-9 in overtime.
The Bison kept the game close for the first half, but they could not hold off St. Francis in the third quarter, when they were outscored 4-1, and they then entered into the fourth quarter down 8-5. Barron and Aleksic each scored early in the fourth to bring the Bison close, and Nowlin scored with under three minutes to play, tying the game and sending it into overtime.
Jack Else ’14 scored a clutch goal for the Bison just 30 seconds in overtime to give his team the advantage. St. Francis answered once again with a goal on their next possession, and then took the lead for good with under two minutes left to play on a power play goal.
Despite the loss, the Bison had many achievements to be proud of. Barron was named First Team All-Eastern Championship, while Napleton, Else and Aleksic were named to the second team. In addition, Aleksic was given the honor of being Rookie of the Tournament.
Although they fell just short of their first NCAA tournament berth in 27 years, the Bison certainly achieved a great amount in the 2012 campaign.