By: Katelyn Rodrigue, Regular Content Creator
Photos from Colleen Lischwe (Instagram)
This weekend, the McKendree Men’s Water Polo team headed to Morgantown, West Virginia for their conference championship. The men were looking to defend their current title and become the first MAWPC-West Region team to win three championships, coming out on top previously in both the 2018-19 and 2020-21 season. The Bearcats entered the tournament with the No. 1 seed, as they went 4-0 for league play, and therefore earned a bye in the first round of the tournament, a coveted and well-deserved advantage.
On Saturday evening, McKendree faced Mercyhurst University and came out on top with a 23-11 win, a particularly high-scoring game for the Bearcats. Fantastic defense by Pedro Osorio and offensive leads by Uros Pelemis assisted the team in their big win. Top scorers for the team this season have included senior co-captains Nico Rodriguez and Matthew Haygood, as well as graduate student Uros Pelemis, who has acquired 32 goals for the team out of center prior to the start of the tournament. It is with no surprise that these three remained vital to the Bearcats’ offense this weekend. We also saw some goals from freshman Jespyn Bishop and senior Tony Sunagawa during the Mercyhurst game, who each raked in two goals, as well as graduate student Michael Rojas, who acquired three.
The win over Mercyhurst meant that the men earned a spot in the championship game, playing for first and second place against long-time rivals Gannon University. The men had a rough start to the game, losing 5-2 at half, but the Bearcats kept the audience on the edge of their seats as they inched closer and closer to Gannon’s score. Star players of the game included senior Matthew Haygood who tallied five goals, senior Josh Carlson with four, and graduate student Uros Pelemis who drew a whopping total of eight ejections. With just 2:40 left in the game, Pelemis and Rodriguez each found their way to the back of the net too, helping the Bearcats to close the score gap. Sadly, McKendree just barely fell short of the win, losing 15-13 after their impressive second-half comeback.
Despite the loss, several McKendree players made the All-Tournament Team. Graduate student Uros Pelemis and senior Josh Carlson made First Team while Ori Scanlon, Michael Rojas, and Matthew Haygood earned spots on Second Team.
Though this loss is tough, the Bearcats should be proud to have brought home second place and look forward to next season, where they’ll hope to bring home first. In the meantime, however, the McKendree Men’s Water Polo team have one more game left in their season on November 13 against Augustana College, where they aspire to end their season with a win! Good luck Bearcats!