BRIDGEPORT, Pa. — On the 16th anniversary of the game, the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) looks back at the 2004 Southern Division Championship Third Place game featuring Salem University versus Bucknell University at Princeton University’s DeNunzio Natatorium on October 31, 2004.
Thanks to Salem head coach Rob Bullion, footage of the game and a copy of the scoresheet were digitized from 16-year old records over the last week to provide the ability to recall the game.
A 12-6 victory by the No. 6 seed Tigers over the No. 5 seed Bison, the game has significance in the history of the Salem men’s water polo program. Led by head coach Keith Bullion and Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) Division II All-America First Team goalie Goran Bakovic, the 2004 Division II Eastern Champion Tigers earned their first – and only – berth to the CWPA Eastern Championship (hosted by Bucknell in 2004).
Salem never trailed in the game as the Tigers jumped out to 1-0 and 2-1 leads with 4:13 and 2:31 left in the first quarter, respectively, via goals by Tomislav Popovic and Vladimir Lazic to sandwich a tally by the Bison’s Bradley Roslyn with 2:31 on the clock. The Tigers expanded their lead to 3-1 prior to the close of the opening frame as Danilo Lazarevic beat the horn to bury a shot as time expired.
The margin grew to 4-1 with 5:58 remaining until halftime as Lazarevic struck again, but Jay Danforth trimmed Bucknell’s deficit to a pair by finishing a pass 28 seconds later to move the Bison within 4-2. The comeback was short-lived, however, as Popovic dented the twine on back-to-back chances at 2:11 and 58 seconds to make it 6-2. Bucknell had the final say in the first half, however, as Roslyn beat the buzzer with a man-up strike to shrink his squad’s deficit down to 6-3.
The Tigers refused to permit the Bison to charge back into the contest as Popovic (5:09, 3:48) and Marko Cebalovic (4:29) rattled off three consecutive markers to push the spread to six at 9-3. Jason Rechel closed out the third quarter with a goal at the 31 seconds mark to make it a five goal game at 9-4.
Salem enlarged its lead to seven at 11-4 by the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter as Lazarevic put away opportunities at 6:35 and 5:00. Bucknell punched back with tallies by Elliot Benoist (4:34) and Danforth (3:29) to inch back within five at 11-6, but Lazarevic put the concluding touches on a Salem victory by netting his third goal of the quarter and fifth of the game with nine seconds remaining for the 12-6 final.
Popovic and Lazarevic led the way for Salem with five goals, while Danforth and Roslyn deposited pairs for Bucknell.