‘FALLON, Illinois – The Salem men’s water polo team took their already successful 2023 campaign into the postseason this weekend as both the Eastern and Western divisions met for the WWPA conference tournament in Illinois. Salem came in as the #1 seed from the East, and earned the corresponding first round bye. After that bye, Salem ended up taking on Concordia-Irvine on Saturday, and then host McKendree on Sunday morning. Both contests played out as follows:
Concordia-Irvine 14, Salem 11
In the Tigers’ first game of the weekend, Salem took on the 2 seed from the West, namely the Golden Eagles of Concordia-Irvine. Salem had a close game on their hands immediately, with both teams adding 4 goals in the first quarter. Concordia took control of the game by holding the Tigers scoreless in the second. After halftime, a furious Salem rally came up just short, and the Golden Eagles pulled away with the 14-11 win. Offensively, Salem was led by Nikola Krstonosic who added 8 goals and 2 assists. Defensively, Duarte Costa logged 7 saves in goal.
Salem 16, McKendree 12
After falling out of contention for the WWPA title, Salem ended up taking on familiar foe and tournament host McKendree in the third place game. The Tigers took care of business and locked in their third win over the Bearcats this season. Ivan Zivojinovic led the way for Salem with 6 goals, and Nikola Krstonosic was just behind him with 5 goals and 2 assists.
While a third place finish at the WWPA Tournament is not what head coach Rob Bullion’s team had in mind for their trip to Illinois, they should be able to take the experience and build on it in the offseason in preparation for the 2024 fall campaign.