The dream team is back. Or at least the GW men’s water polo team version of it.
Last year when the Colonials took third place at the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Eastern Championship, it was a cause for celebration. It was the best season in the history of the program, and it left the team ranked No. 18 in the nation this season, the first national ranking the program has picked up in 11 years.
And now, the majority of the team is back – older, wiser and more experienced.
This year coaches and players alike say the team has the chops to take it one step further, thanks to improved game experience, hard work and a camaraderie between players that, according to several seniors, allows them to react to plays wordlessly.
“Our team chemistry is one of our strengths,” said fifth-year senior Nick Eddy. “We’ve been playing together for a while now, and we have the little things – the glances and knowing what our teammates are going to do before they do them. You can anticipate what they’re going to do in the pool and you can adjust your game accordingly.”
And this year, both coach and players predict the team will take it one step further – to the NCAA Final Four, a destination only reached by winning the Eastern Championship.
The four returning starters – seniors Sergei Shev, David Zenk, junior John-Claude Wright and Eddy – appear to be the team’s keys to success.
Zenk became the program’s first player to be named an All-American selection by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches and set GW single-season records last year in swim-offs, steals and field blocks.
Shev has not missed a game in the three seasons he’s played for the Colonials. Eddy, who is the second-highest point-scorer on the team with 74 points, also tossed in 49 goals in 2007. Wright made 55 goals and 57 steals.
“They make for a very dangerous threat against the other teams,” head coach Scott Reed said.
In addition, GW’s depth gives the Colonials an edge over the other programs.
“We’re returning a lot of players. And while the other teams have weakened, like Navy and St. Francis, who lost some of their main goal-scorers, we’ve stayed strong,” Shev said. “Basically, we’re just a very experienced team with a lot of leaders, and we’ll be able to take that against our weakened opponents.”
But the Colonials are not relying on experience alone. Both goalies are freshmen, meaning a rookie will start “for the first time in a long time,” Reed said.
An upcoming game against St. Francis (N.Y.), the second-place finishers at the Eastern Championships last year and the current No. 12 team in the nation, will likely reveal what the Colonials are capable of.
“We’re playing a ranked team, so this should be our first good test,” Zenk said. “We had a tough preseason. Coach has been working us hard this year, which is good.”
And St. Francis will likely be prepared. Whereas GW has been relatively unknown in recent years, Reed said that is no longer the case.
“We’re not going to have the ability to kind of sneak up on people,” Reed said. Everyone knows who we are now, and instead of us going after people, everyone’s going to be coming after us. This is probably the first time in a long time we’ve been in this position.”