LEWISBURG, Pa. – Rade Joksimovic scored six goals, Jeff Hagen added four and the No. 12-ranked Bucknell men’s water polo team used a stifling defense that allowed just three goals over the final 27 minutes of play to defeat Fordham 16-5 Saturday evening at Kinney Natatorium in the semifinals of the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Championship.
The top-ranked Bison (22-4) defeated the fourth-ranked Rams (15-13) for the third time this season, and for the 41st time in 44 meetings. Bucknell will now face George Washington in Sunday’s championship game at 1:30 p.m. with the winner earning the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship, which will likely result in a play-in game appearance for the winner.
Joksimovic, who scored a school-record 14 goals in Friday’s quarterfinal win over Connecticut College, now has 144 goals this season to rank third on the school’s single-season ledger. He also had six steals, one ejection drawn and two sprints won. Joksimovic scored three goals in each half.
Charlie Niehaus was strong in goal for Bucknell, which has its most wins in a season (22) since going 25-9 in 1985. The junior posted 11 saves behind a defense that totaled 17 steals in front of him. Niehaus now has 261 saves this year to rank eighth on the program’s single-season list.
Bucknell led 7-3 at halftime and the final 11-goal margin was the largest of the game. The Bison scored the contest’s final five goals.
Bucknell will be in position to win its first conference title since 2012 (Southern Championships) and earn its first NCAA berth since 1985 when it squares off against George Washington on Sunday.
FORDHAM 2 1 1 1 -5
BUCKNELL 3 4 3 6 -16
Goals: Joksimovic (6), Hagen (4), Hunter (2), Stupp (2), Dolan, Djordjevic.
Assists: Dolan (3), Stupp (2), Daley (2), Niehaus (2), Djordjevic, Hagen, Joksimovic.
Ejections Drawn: Hunter (3), Hagen (3), Daley, Babic, Joksimovic.
Steals: Stupp (6), Joksimovic (6), Djordjevic (2), Daley (2), Dolan.
Saves: Niehaus (11 svs., 5 ga., 32:00 min.).
Sprints: Joksimovic (2-2), Babic (0-1), Djordjevic (0-1).
Bucknell Record: 22-4.