Looking to defend its best start in over a decade, the men’s water polo team edged out No. 18 Bucknell, but couldn’t keep up against No. 13 Princeton in key early-season matches against conference opponents.
Against Bucknell, who beat GW in the first round of postseason play last year, four goals each from senior Daniel Tyner and junior Ridvan Pehlivan carried the Colonials to a 15-14 win over the Bison.
Against Navy, the Colonials showed how much they have improved this season, coming back from a 7-4 deficit to take down the Midshipmen, 14-13. Unfortunately, against its toughest opponent, Princeton, GW’s offense played “sloppy,” head coach Scott Reed said, and the Tigers took the game 9-5, bringing the Colonials’ season record to a still strong 8-2.
“When it’s close, it’s very important to keep our emotions in check,” sophomore goalkeeper Connor Dillon said. “I think we’ve shown this weekend, by beating Navy and Bucknell, that we’re very capable – in one- or two-goal games – that we can keep our emotions down and use it to help us win games.”
Against Bucknell on Saturday, the Colonials took the lead in the first quarter and would never trail the Bison for the rest of the game.
Sophomore Bogdan Petkovic, last week’s Southern Division Co-Player of the week and last year’s rookie of the year, got the offense on the right track, scoring the first goal for the Colonials.
The win over Bucknell was the first division game for the Colonials this season, and with last year’s double-overtime playoff defeat in mind, it was also significant win for GW’s players.
“Everybody was so pumped up from the Bucknell win,” senior attacker Paul Deasey said. “Everybody was really excited playing together and the ball was working around really well.”
Saturday’s win had the potential to build strong momentum for the rest of the weekend, but Sunday’s doubleheader brought two more tough match-ups for the Colonials.
GW had not beaten Navy since 2002, so this weekend was a chance to show how far the team has come since then. Navy owned the first half, though, jumping ahead of GW 7-4 at one point. The Colonials rallied back, eventually down by only one point at halftime.
GW came back strong after the break, putting the ball in the back of the net four times while limiting the Midshipmen to just one goal the entire quarter.
The Colonials closed out the game for good in the final quarter after Tyner’s fourth goal put GW up 9-8. Navy would find the net five times in the fourth, but GW had an answer for each.
Tyner, who was awarded the season’s first Division Player of the Week award, led the team through the weekend, with nine goals. Petkovic was the second-highest scorer against Navy, with three goals.
After winning two games in a row, the team had to muster enough energy to play their toughest opponent of the weekend: the Princeton Tigers. In addition to being ranked No.13 in the nation, the Tigers also came into the match leading the Southern division.
The momentum that had been carrying the Colonials through the weekend wasn’t enough to pull off an undefeated weekend, however. The well-rested Tigers established an early lead in the first quarter and maintained it throughout the game.
With Princeton leading 6-4 after the first half, they pulled away in the third quarter, earning three goals, compared to just one for GW, and taking the match 9-5. The only bright spot for the Colonials was a hat trick from Pehlivan, who racked up nine goals over the weekend.
“Overall, that being the second game of the day and Princeton coming well-rested, it was tough,” head coach Scott Reed said. “I think defensively, we were shutting them down in some of the places we needed to, but falling short in some of the six-on-five defense, cross passes, and shots.”
Although disappointed in the final loss, the Colonials still finish the weekend with a solid 2-1 division record. That gives the team the motivation for its next division game against Johns Hopkins on Saturday.
“It was just a matter of us being tired, and we got sloppy,” Reed. “The next time we play them [Princeton], we can’t be a sloppy team. If we’re a sloppy team, we will see the same results.”