ANNAPOLIS, MD - Despite a powerful five-goal performance from junior Jake Lloyd, the Iona men’s water polo team lost 12-7 to Bucknell as the squad wrapped up its season-opening, four-game weekend at the 2013 Navy Open hosted by the United States Naval Academy. Earlier in the day, the squad dropped a hard-fought exhibition match 15-14 to Diablo Valley College.
Backing up Lloyd’s offensive effort against the Bison, including two fourth-quarter penalty shots, were junior Ian Thompson and sophomore Zach Presto with one goal each. Senior goalie Stefen Hill had eleven saves.
Even though coming home without the Gaels’ first win, head coach Brian Kelly was confident that the four-game weekend against strong opponents signaled a strong season.
“We had a tough schedule for the weekend playing good teams without a lot of space between our two games each day,” said Kelly, starting his nineteenth season at the helm.
“I was happy with the effort, most of the execution and I’m confident that we are heading in the right direction. We’re not far from winning all these close games.”
Bucknell opened the match with three consecutive goals until Lloyd’s first score with 3:22 left in the first period. In the second quarter, Lloyd found the back of the net twice, followed by Thompson to tie the score at four with 2:12 left. But two Bison goals in the final minute put Bucknell up 6-4 at intermission.
With both teams scoreless for the first four minutes of the third period, Bucknell went up 7-4, before Presto got the Gaels within two goals at the 2:32 mark. Finishing the third with two more scores, the Bisons led 9-5 going into the final quarter.
Lloyd’s two penalty shots, thanks to ejections drawn by senior Lee Stiles and Thompson, narrowed Bucknell’s lead to 10-7 with 3:54 left in regulation. But two Bucknell goals silenced the Gaels late-game rally.
Against Diablo Valley, the Gaels were led by Lloyd with four goals. Senior Sean Davis and Presto had three goals apiece. Junior Kyle Elmore scored twice, while senior Matthew Stelnicki and Thompson had one goal each. Hill recorded eight saves, and sophomore goalie Matt McCrudden had four stops in a late-game appearance.
The Gaels continue their road schedule with five games next weekend at the Princeton Invite.