Last year, the men’s water polo team scored more than 11 goals per game on the way to its most successful season since 2006.
Now trying to ride that momentum, GW will have to change its philosophy after losing four key seniors who scored 41 percent of the team’s goals.
“Our seniors did a good job of putting points on the board last year,” head coach Scott Reed said. “This year, we’re going to be a more defensive-minded team to compensate for that loss.”
The Colonials come into this season ranking seventh in the CWPA’s Varsity Preseason Poll, and looking to build on a 2013 campaign that was a net positive, despite some ups and downs. After the team started 9-2, the year changed direction with a tough 3-8 stretch. GW wrapped up the season 16-15 in the program’s first winning season in seven years. Those 16 wins were also the most in a single season since 1998.
The team has been in the pool since preseason training began Aug. 19, focusing on conditioning and also making use of new technology like GW’s vision training system, particularly for goalkeepers.
But to continue improving, the Colonials will need to cope with the loss of offensive standout Daniel Tyner. Tyner ended his career ranking third all-time with 339 points and fifth with 228 career goals.
“Instead of out-scoring teams, we’re going to need to out-defend them,” junior Bogdan Petkovic said. “Instead of trying to beat teams 11-10, we should beat them 6-5.”
Reed attributed last year’s streakiness to a lack of depth on the roster, which will likely change with six new freshman and an additional year of experience under the belts of older team leaders.
This year’s freshman class, joining 12 returning letterwinners on the team, brings versatility, particularly in utility player and 2013 All-American Pierce Deamer, who Reed called “one of the most complete players I have ever seen,” in a release. Reed said in an interview that all the newcomers will have the opportunity to get playing time.
Along with Deamer, the Colonials added attacker and 2013 All-American honorable mention Duke Becker, attacker Noah McKinnie Braun, center defender Joe Behun, center Quentin Montgomery and utility player Ryan Michalko to the roster this season.
“Now we’re going to have a lot more depth and will be able to give people rest throughout the season,” said Reed, who is entering his 15th season at the helm for GW. His best season came in the 2006-07, when the team went 14-12.
Reed said he will look to Petkovic and senior attacker Brian Mojica for leadership – both in the water and the locker room. Petkovic earned his second Honorable Mention All-American recognition during the offseason, and Mojica ranks second all-time at GW with 147 assists. Along with Petkovic and Mojica will be senior center Ridvan Pehlivan, who ranked second on the team in goals with 55.
“We don’t want to have long losing streaks this year that bring down morale. I want to be able to keep everyone’s morale up, especially toward the end of the season,” Mojica said.
To aid the defense, GW returns both of last season’s goalkeepers in junior Connor Dillon and sophomore Sander Profaci. Dillon accumulated most of the playing time last season, totaling 101 quarters to Profaci’s 24.
Even with the tall order on offense, Reed is confident that the team can continue its upward trajectory and be a force in the upcoming season.
“Despite the fact that we lost so many offensive players, we’re still looking to move forward,” Reed said. “We want to put ourselves in a position to play in that championship game.”
The best postseason result for the program was in 2007: The Colonials finished third at the Eastern Championships after a 12-18 regular season. Last year, the team placed seventh at the tournament, now called the CWPA Championships.
The Colonials begin their season Sept. 6, with a doubleheader against MIT and defending CWPA Champion St. Francis (NY) in the Princeton Invitational. The Colonials will not face the CWPA preseason poll top-ranked Tigers during the Invitational, but will host them on Sept. 21 and return to Princeton Sept. 28 for some of the season’s toughest competition.