Three years is a long time to wait. In a collegiate career, it is almost a lifetime.
The four seniors on GW women’s water polo team were only freshmen the last time they won a regular-season Collegiate Water Polo Association conference game – three years and four days before they played their final home game Sunday morning at Smith Center. While Colonials head coach Scott Reed took the microphone and spoke to his seniors and their fans before the game, it was the visiting Princeton Tigers doing the waiting, loitering in an adjacent corner of the pool as they listened to his remarks and politely applauded their upcoming opponents.
As the pre-game festivities wrapped up and the teams took to the water for the opening swim-off, Princeton’s wait came to its predictable and inevitable end. But that beginning jockeying for possession was only the outset of the Colonials’ effort to erase the pesky line in their game notes that recalls the significance of that April 9, 2005, win over Salem International. But with all of its might and hope, the Colonials could not register a win, losing 10-6.
Princeton entered the contest with a chance to tie for first place in the CWPA Southern Division, on the heels of a 15-6 victory over GW from just a week earlier. For their part, the Colonials seemed undaunted by the task at hand, even as the Tigers drew first blood with a goal less than two minutes into the game. GW would notch the game’s next two scores before the first quarter closed with the teams knotted at three goals apiece.
The second period was played under a more deliberate pace, each team’s defense forcing the opposing offense to hold the ball for much of the shot clock and limiting the overall scoring chances. After the teams exchanged goals, the Colonials ended the half with a two-minute momentum swing that began with senior goalkeeper Julie Jacoby turning away a breakaway shot from point-blank range and ended with sophomore Marissa Stamler scoring off a rebound with just four seconds left in the half. GW took a 5-4 lead into the break, that elusive victory appearing within reach.
“We decided that it was going to be to our best interest to be very patient and limit the opportunities for Princeton on the offensive end,” Reed said after the game. “We really kind of tried to stall things out because we knew we weren’t going to get too many opportunities to begin with.”
But the slow pace did GW’s offense few favors in the second half. Defense again limited the Tigers’ scoring, this time to two goals in the third quarter, but the Colonials failed to find the net in that same period. Senior Sarah Stimson’s early fourth-quarter goal tied the score at six, but the Tigers ended the game with a flurry of scores – four in three minutes – to wrap up a the victory and extend the wait for GW’s seniors indefinitely.
“Looking back, it might have hurt us in the fourth quarter a little bit, took us out of sync,” Reed said of the team’s defensive-minded strategy. “But it was something we had to try to do.”
But for the Colonials (7-19 and 0-6 in CWPA), not all is lost. The seniors – Jacoby, Stimson, Rebecca Stein and Greta Padraza – may not have another chance to record a regular season win, but next weekend their hopes are born anew with the CWPA Southern Divisional Championship, a tournament pitting all four of the division’s members against one another to anoint its postseason champion. So often in sports it is in the playoffs that teams are truly judged, and Reed thinks his squad will be up to the challenge.
“I’m feeling very good,” Reed said about the state of his team heading into the tournament. “If they play this well and correct some of the mistakes we made in this game, we could surprise some people.”
To get that opportunity, they’ll just have to wait another week.