Jack Hornberger did not always plan on playing water polo. The Houston, Texas native played football, but an injury forced him to give up the gridiron.
A friend’s mother insisted that the 6-foot-1 Hornberger try water polo. He was reluctant, but after nabbing All-American honors in high school twice, he visited GW.
“My recruiting trip here with the players and coaches was great; the guys were fun and I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Hornberger said.
After losing three seniors from last year’s squad, it would have been lofty to think that the GW men’s water polo team would start the season 4-0 with wins over big-time opponents.
Much of that success can be attributed to the Hornberger, the lone senior on the squad, who scored 14 goals in the victories.
Hornberger said he acknowledges the importance of his role as a team leader.
“As the captain you are expected to know when you have to pick the team up, and when to lead the people around you” Hornberger said. The captain’s performance to start the season earned him the Collegiate Water Polo Association Co-Player of the Week Award.
The 4-0 start was the best in the men’s water polo history. GW swept the Navy Open beating Gannon, MIT, then-No. 18 Santa Clara and Iona. The Colonials followed up the strong start with two losses to Johns Hopkins and Navy.
The men’s squad was expected to struggle a bit with the loss of many veterans from last year’s team, but now sit at 6-4 with a match with Navy on deck Tuesday in Annapolis, Md.
Hornberger said the addition of freshmen Marshall Freedman, Alexander Price, John-Claude Wright and Nick Archambault have propelled the team to a new level.
“The ability of the freshmen to step up right away, they have filled gaps immediately and that has led to early success,” Hornberger said.
But for Hornberger, becoming a successful captain was not second nature.
“I always used to listen to the captains to see what they did, and I learned a lot from those guys.”
His attentiveness to detail has led to one of the team’s best seasons in history.
Led by Hornberger the offense has played at a very high level and his leadership has helped the likes of sophomores David Zenk, Gustavo Canto and freshman Wright.
“When we are on we have one of the best set offenses on the East Coast with our speed and power,” Hornberger said.
It is Scott Reed, the eighth-year head coach, who has watched Jack grow from a young player to a poised captain. “Jack has stepped up in a leadership role without me prodding him both in the water and out,” Reed said.
What makes Hornberger such a leader, teammates say, is his ability to make plays in the water.
“He can do everything, he is so versatile; he can play any position I ask him to,” Reed said. “In fact, there are times where he tries to do too much and tries to make his plays look too pretty. He knows what I mean; he just needs to get the shot on the goal, because when he does he is one of the best players on the east coast.”
So far Hornberger has been the catalyst for a quick start by the young Colonial water polo squad.
“I expect to win every game we play as a team,” he said. “We want to win all our league games, Southerns and, Easterns and when we are playing at our best, few teams can beat us.”