Fall preview – Water polo looks to veteran leadership

The young GW men’s varsity water polo team consists of just 13 members: six returning players, five freshmen and two walk-ons. But that does not daunt second year coach Scott Reed.

Last year, GW finished with a 7-21 record, but 10 of those losses were by three goals or less.

We had too much talent last year, so we played more of an individual game, Reed said. But this year the team really understands the whole team concept of polo.

Sophomore Chris Greene said age is one of the biggest differences from last year to this year.

We are definitely younger this year but we have more team chemistry compared to the 1999 Colonials, Greene said.

Sophomore Kevin Norman said the team is more efficient in the pool because team chemistry is growing.

Despite the team’s 3-5 record this year, senior Brad Oliver said the team’s experience is building and things are going well. Oliver and junior Spencer Hugret said the freshmen are stepping up.

The freshmen are no slouches. So far Pat Dodge leads the team in goals and assists, and Chris Blick has exceeded expectations and performed well under pressure as the new GW goalkeeper.

These freshmen have lots of polo experience but they still are adjusting to the NCAA level, Reed said. There is a big difference in size and speed moving from high school to college.

The freshmen are not the only new players on Reed’s team. Joining the team for the 2000 season is senior Nick Hopman and junior Tom Gately. Hopman enjoyed a stellar swimming career at GW before coming aboard the water polo team. Gately is a transfer from Villanova University who hopes his experience will help him become a successful member of the team.

Nick and Tom bring savvy and depth off the bench, Greene said. Greene returns for the Colonials after leading the team last season in two-point goals and sprints won. Greene earned possession in 31 of 35 sprints the team won.

The two co-captains, Josh Gimpelson and Brad Oliver, have extensive knowledge of the game and understand what Reed wants and expects from them. Gimpelson was fourth on the team in scoring last year with 22 goals and 20 assists. Oliver recorded 45 steals during last season. He is also the team’s only true senior.

Brad is very strong in the water, which allows him to be very aggressive, Norman said. He also has a cannon for an arm.

A fourth-year player, Oliver is certainly a team leader.

He is an anchor on defense because he is our primary two-meter defender, Reed said. He handles the role of captain well and always comes in with a lot of confidence. One of his best assets is that he keeps a cool head about things that go on during the games.

Greene said Oliver leads by example.

Everyone has a tremendous amount of respect for (Oliver), so we follow his lead, Greene said. His intensity speaks for itself and he generates a lot of motivation for the entire team.

With Oliver, Gimpelson and a healthy addition of youth and experience, Reed said he expects the team to be competitive with every team this year. On the offensive side of the pool, Reed and his players want to flourish by being unselfish.

This year we are not relying on any one person to provide, Hugret said. We are focusing on playing as one cohesive unit in the water.

The team must rotate four players to fill the lack of a dominant hole-set, Greene said. Hugret and Dodge are the primary candidates, and Norman and Greene fill in when needed.

Players said the rotation engenders more team chemistry because it requires all team members to play together.

Team members said their coach’s youth will play to their advantage this season.

(Reed) is really good because he hasn’t been out of the pool that long so we can relate to him and him to us, Oliver said.

Other players said they like Reed’s coaching style.

Coach is pretty low-key, Greene said. When you’re in the water, he let’s you play your own game, but he is big on discipline. That correlates over into our games.

Despite a road-heavy schedule with only two home games – Johns Hopkins University (Sept. 27) and the United States Naval Academy (Oct. 6) – the team hopes to make a big impression in the league this year by starting with a solid foundation and continuing with good chemistry.

For some reason, the Hopkins game usually gets pretty physical, but we’re just looking to get a win, Reed said.

Ultimately, Reed’s team is looking to make it to the Eastern Championships this year. With the team Reed has assembled, GW has an excellent shot.

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