The men’s water polo team spent much of its game Wednesday night playing from behind. After opening the game with a goal to go up 1-0, GW’s opponent Navy scored twice to end the first quarter with a 2-1 lead, a lead it wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.
It’s a familiar feeling for the Colonials, who have struggled early in games for much of the season, and as a result have been forced to play a lot of catch-up. GW managed to stay in the game though, pulling to within one in the second quarter and to within two midway through the fourth quarter, swinging momentum into its corner.
Each time, though, the Midshipmen responded, scoring twice to enter halftime with a 6-3 lead and putting three quick goals on the Colonials late in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice, an 11-6 win for Navy.
“That’s unfortunately the way we’ve been playing all season,” sophomore goalkeeper Cameron Illes said. “We get down early and then we have to play comeback and it’s been hurting us this season because we’ve been in a lot of close games where we’ve ended up on the losing end just by a few goals. That’s definitely one of our weaknesses.”
With a team comprising five sophomores, six freshman and just one senior, learning how to play from behind and overcome a deficit is something GW (5-10, 1-2 CWPA) head coach Scott Reed said will come with time. A big part of it, he said, will be learning to keep up a level of consistency that was lacking against the Midshipmen.
“It’s always gonna be frustrating. It’s just a matter of maintaining that intensity level, and it takes a lot of practice to do that, it takes a lot of games to do that,” Reed said. “Against a team like Navy that’s very physical, very strong, you relax for a single moment and then all of a sudden you’re giving up two more goals just like that. That has a lot to do with experience.”
One bright spot for the Colonials Wednesday night was the play of Illes, whose 19 saves against Navy tied a program record held by three others, including Illes himself, who also had 19 saves last season against MIT.
“I definitely felt good and I knew I had more saves than usual,” Illes said. “I had some big saves that felt pretty good and I think I made some saves that gave us some momentum. But like I said, once you get down, you have to play catch-up, it’s hard to get that back.”
Reed said he was especially impressed with Illes’ performance.
“That was the best I’ve seen him this season,” Reed said. “You could see it right from the get-go, how focused he was and how motivated he was. He doesn’t like to lose to Navy.”
Even with Illes’ strong night in goal, the Colonials struggled to keep the Midshipmen off the board, especially in transition, where GW has struggled significantly this season. Freshman Paul Deasey said that even though Navy put 11 goals on Illes, the goalie couldn’t be blamed for most of them.
“The transition defense was again our problem,” Deasey said. “When they’re getting fast breaks and one-on-nobodies, there’s really nothing [Illes] can do in the cage unless he makes a spectacular save, which he’s done.”
Deasey and Illes both said that transition defense had been a focus in the team’s recent practices, but that stopping opponents from getting fast break goals has been and will continue to be a challenge for the team. Hopefully by the end of the season, Reed said, the mistakes GW made against Navy will be a thing of the past.
“We were just making some silly little mistakes in there,” he said. “The hope is by the end of the season, we’re solving all these problems and we’re not gonna make these same mistakes the second time around.”