The men’s water polo team beat 18th-ranked Santa Clara 13-11 Sunday at the Navy Labor Day Open in Annapolis, Md. The Colonials followed their win over Santa Clara with a 10-6 win over unranked Iona.
GW hit two team milestones in the tournament. The 4-0 start is the best in the program’s 24-year history and the victory over a ranked opponent is the first since head coach Scott Reed took over in 1998.
Reed said the win is a major step for the program.
“It was a great day for us,” Reed said in a news release. “John (Hornberger) and Chris (Whittam) were just absolute studs for us all weekend and John-Claude (Wright) really stepped up.”
Whittam, a junior, recorded six saves in net for GW to bring his season total to 34. Wright, a freshman, had three goals while sophomore David Zenk had his second hat trick against Santa Clara (0-4).
Trailing 11-10 with 4:51 remaining in the final period against Santa Clara, the Colonials scored three goals in the final two minutes, including two from senior captain Jack Hornberger, who scored six goals in the game.
“We came out playing really strong – the best polo we’ve been playing all season,” sophomore driver Brendan Boerbaitz said. “In the third quarter, they got their second wind and outplayed us. When they went up 11-10, we really put it in gear.”
A strong performance against a ranked team is not new for GW.
“In previous years we’ve been down to the wire with nationally ranked teams and we haven’t gotten the job done,” Boerbaitz said. “This year during preseason and practice we’ve really worked extra hard and it’s paying off at the end of games.”
The game only temporarily boosts confidence – it will be meaningless unless the team performs well at the Eastern Championships in May, Hornberger added.
“Santa Clara is a great team with some great players, but we’re not just looking to beat nationally ranked teams; we’re looking at Easterns and this is one step toward this goal,” Hornberger said. “It showed the underclassmen how to finish a game against a good team, but it showed the upperclassmen that the work we’ve put in over the last three or four years has paid off.”
The Colonials’ schedule does not get easier. Next weekend they will play four games in two days at the Princeton Invitation in Princeton, N.J. GW will face No. 5 Pacific Saturday morning followed by an evening match with Iona. The Colonials will face No. 15 Princeton Sunday afternoon before tangling with Atlantic 10 rival Fordham at 4 p.m.