No. 19 Men’s Water Polo’s Rally Falls Short in 9-8 Barnburner against No. 20 Bucknell

No. 19 Men’s Water Polo’s Rally Falls Short in 9-8 Barnburner against No. 20 Bucknell

Courtesy of Collegiate Water Polo Association Communications

Bucknell                        2  4  1  2  -  9           

Brown                           2  0  2  4  -  8

Goals: Klein 3, Deaver 2, Villeneuve 2, Gallas 1


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Sophomore Will Klein (Pasadena, Calif.) rattled off three fourth-quarter goals to help the No. 19 Brown men's water polo team rally from a 7-4 deficit to force an 8-8 tie, but No. 20 Bucknell hung on for a 9-8 victory over the Bears to cap day one of the Collegiate Water Polo Association Eastern Championships at Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center on Friday.

Brown moves to 21-13 overall on the season and will face George Washington University tomorrow at 1:40 p.m. The Colonials defeated Johns Hopkins, 5-3, and fell to St. Francis Brooklyn, 14-6, earlier today.

Klein totaled eight goals on the day after earning Player of the Game honors with five tallies in Brown's game one rout of Fordham. Junior Nick Deaver (Orinda, Calif.) and senior Grant Villeneuve (Atherton, Calif.) each scored twice, while sophomore Matty Gallas (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) also found the back of the net.

For the Bison, Jack Else and Stefan Aleksic both struck four times, with Else delivering the game-winner with 2:44 left in the contest.

The victory sets up an historic rematch from last year's CWPA Championship game at Princeton University. 

Bucknell (14-9), which fell to 2012 CWPA Champion St. Francis College Brooklyn 10-9 in overtime during the title tilt, will have a chance to pay back the No. 13-ranked champs a year later with interest as the Bison will meet St. Francis at 4:20 p.m. on Saturday, November 23, in the semifinals with a slot in the 2013 title game against either the No. 16 Midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy or the No. 18 Tigers of Princeton University on the line.

The game will mark the first meeting between the two programs since they clashed for the league crown as the five-time champion Bison (1975, 1977-80) and three-time titlist Terriers (2005, 2010, 2012) will aim to return to the championship game with eyes on a trip to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship tournament at Stanford University.

For the Bison and the rest of the CWPA Championship field, the road to Palo Alto first runs through Providence, R.I. and the campus of Brown (21-13) as the Bears pushed Bucknell to the limit from the opening sprint to the closing horn of their quarterfinal showdown.

Bucknell, which never trailed in the game, put the Bears on their heels less than two minutes into the game as Stefan Aleksic (So., Belgrade, Serbia/Sport Gymnasium) swung free with 6:09 remaining in the opening quarter to drop in a shot off a man-up chance to stake the Bison to a quick 1-0 lead.

The margin expanded to a pair 20 seconds later when Aleksic stuck a second shot past Bears' goalie Walker Shockley (Sr., Diamond Bar, Calif./Damien) with 5:49 on the clock to make it 2-0.

Brown's offense came out of hibernation and went to work, however, as Nick Deaver (Jr., Orinda, Calif./Miramonte) turned inside his defender and lined a tally past Bucknell backstop Keegan Williams (Jr., Menlo Park, Calif./Menlo School) at 4:36 to make it a one-goal game.

The lead disappeared with 43 ticks left on the period clock as Grant Villeneuve (Sr., Atherton, Calif./Deerfield Academy) took advantage of an exclusion with 1:01 left in the quarter to put away a six-on-five chance to balance the scoreboard and put the Bears back in the game.

However, the second quarter would prove disastrous for Brown as Bucknell racked up four unanswered goals prior to the halftime horn to grab a 6-2 lead and put the Bears in a nearly untenable position.

With Brown's Will Klein (So., Pasadena, Calif./Pasadena) in the corner following an exclusion with 6:35 on the clock, the Bison cashed in on the ensuing man-up opportunity when Else found a crack in the Bears' defense for a strike (6:14) one second following the conclusion of the six-on-five chance to return the lead to the Bison at 3-2.

Mike Kimble (Sr., Lafayette, Calif./Acalanes) and Else followed at 4:43 and 2:44, respectively, with even-strength markers to build the lead to 5-2 prior to Aleksic scoring two seconds following the conclusion of a man-up chance with 1:20 left in the half for a 6-2 lead at the break.

Brown rallied in the third quarter as Matty Gallas (So., Manhattan Beach, Calif./Chadwick School) and Deaver notched natural and man-up scores at 5:09 and 1:32 remaining in the period, respectively, to mow the margin back to 6-4.

The Bears' comeback bid came to a brief halt as Else completed a hat-trick by slipping into Brown's den for a point-blank blast with 12 seconds remaining to make it 7-4 in favor of Bucknell to start the fourth quarter.

Klein then took command of the game for Brown as the sophomore launched back-to-back balls (5:36, 4:51) with both squads at full-strength past Bucknell goalie Keegan Williams (Jr., Menlo Park, Calif./Menlo School) to shrink the Bison lead down to 7-6.

Aleksic terminated the rally with a five-meter penalty shot at 4:31 off a call against Gallas to make it 8-6, but the Bears refused to go down as Klein connected on his third tally of the quarter with 4:19 to go to once again make it a one-score game at 8-7.

Facing a raucous crowd and a Brown offense which was coming to life, Bucknell could do nothing to stop the Bears from netting the equalizer as Villeneuve dumped in his second score of the evening to make it eight-all and set-up a nail-biter for both squads' fans.

Following a timeout immediately following Villeneuve's strike, the Bison turned to no one but Else as the senior center slammed home the deciding blow with 2:44 to go in regulation to put his team back in front at 9-8.

The score would hold up the rest of the way as Brown was unable to solve either Williams or the rest of the Bucknell defense over the remaining allotted regulation span of 32 minutes.

In addition to Else, Aleksic also registered four goals to go along a single strike by Kimble.  In cage, Williams made three saves to claim the win.

Klein (three), Deaver (two), Villeneuve (two) and Gallas accounted for Brown's eight goal output. Shockley suffered the loss with two saves.

A key to the game was both teams struggles on man-up chances as the Bears of Brown converted on two-of-nine, but the Bucknell Bison finished on just one-of-11 extra-man chances.

For Bucknell head coach John McBride, the game was a homecoming of sorts as the Rhode Island native served as an assistant coach under several Brown head coaches, including current leader Felix Mercado, for a number of seasons prior to taking over the Bison.

Brown will continue the tournament at 1:40 p.m. on Saturday, November 23, with a contest against George Washington University in the first meeting between the two teams this season.  The victor of the Brown-GW game will earn a spot in the fifth place game against the winner of another game between No. 17 Harvard University and Division III No. 8 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.