When Brian Mojica arrived at Foggy Bottom as a freshman water polo recruit, he said he didn’t quite feel like he belonged on the team.
Coming from unknown high school and club programs, the Cerritos, Calif. native was unsure how he would stack up against athletes who had played for top club and national teams.
Now entering his senior year in the pool, the story has flipped, and, by season’s end, Mojica, who is now a team captain, is positioned to leave the team as one of the best players in program history.
“I was terrified, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Mojica said. “But now I feel like I’ve solidified my place on the team and became a role player.”
Mojica enters the year ranked second all-time with 147 career assists, just 11 assists shy of becoming the program’s all-time assist leader, a title that now belongs to alumnus David Zenk. Mojica also began the year ranking third all-time with 40 career field blocks.
Mojica comes off last season leading the team in assists (48) and was third in total points (72). His skills and presence in the locker room give head coach Scott Reed a leader he can look to in the huddle.
“He’s a workaholic,” Reed said. “He gets done what he needs to get done and sets an example.”
Before taking to the pool for a match, Mojica’s comes up with ways to stay relaxed and focused. Starting his sophomore season, both he and senior Adam Wrobel performed a yoga routine during pregame.
“I don’t really get too emotional during games,” Mojica said. “And I feel like that helps me, and maybe it will help the freshman. If they can see the senior on the team is level-headed in such a tense situation, hopefully they can follow suit.”
Growing up, Mojica said he had never planned to be a water polo player. He chose to play soccer as a kid, but after an injury kept him from running and forced him off the pitch in the sixth grade, his parents decided to place him in a swimming program.
He soon grew bored with swimming, though he noticed other kids playing water polo. With some encouragement from his brother and cousins, who all played the sport, Mojica tried it out.
As he progressed through middle and high school, Mojica fell in love with the game. He gave up other sports, such as basketball and baseball, and began to excel as a water polo player. With offers from Fordham and GW on the table, Mojica said it was an easy choice.
“My trip to GW was the complete opposite of what happened at Fordham,” Mojica. “I loved everything. The city, the team, everything.”
Mojica joined a team that featured no seniors. He said the lack of upperclassmen increased his work ethic, pushing him to become a team leader over the past three years.
Beyond his vision for the open play in the pool, Mojica stands out for his ability to make his teammates laugh. Mojica, known for his bright personality, said he wants to be the guy who keeps up the team’s morale as the grind of the regular season takes its toll.
“When I first met him, I kept wondering why he was smiling all the time,” senior center Ridvan Pehlivan said. “Even if he was shooting, passing or swimming, he always had this huge smile on his face.”
But the laughter and fun do not end when Mojica and his teammates step out of the Smith Center natatorium. The water polo team frequents the GW grandstands, and any student can see Mojica’s character on display at various sporting events, most notably men’s basketball games.
Water polo’s school spirit picked up during Mojica’s sophomore season, when the team went to a basketball game dressed in holiday sweaters. The group has also donned beach wear and togas. They are often the loudest and many times the most comical fans at games. Watching the volleyball team’s home opener against Auburn on Aug. 29, Mojica and his teammates started to belt out Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby,” trying to distract one of the Auburn players.
“We like being there and supporting the teams,” Mojica said. “Hopefully, other people think it’s fun and they will come out, too.”
Although Mojica is entering his final season playing collegiate water polo, he said he has no plans to give up the sport he accidentally fell in love with. Mojica is aiming to earn a spot on the Philippine national team, a longtime dream of his.
He is already in contact with the team’s captain, and he hopes to visit the squad during winter break.
“I never imagined that I’d be playing water polo now in college because I was so interested in other sports growing up,” Mojica said. “It’s interesting to see how things happen.”