After six grueling weeks of conference play, the Southern Division Championship may actually give the Colonials a chance to get back on their feet from a 1-7 conference season.
The Colonials, seeded fifth, begin the postseason Friday with two games: first against Johns Hopkins, the No. 4 seed, then against No. 9-seeded Salem International from Southern Division-West. Both are pool play matches that will determine the tournament brackets in the following games.
Eleven teams from the East and West divisions will compete for five spots in the Collegiate Water Polo Association Championship from Nov. 21 to 23 at Navy, the defending Southern Division champion. The CWPA champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Princeton, the Southern Division-East Region regular season champions and ninth-ranked team in the nation, is seeded first – followed by Navy, Bucknell, Johns Hopkins, GW, Washington and Jefferson, Mercyhurst, Gannon, Salem International, Monmouth College and Penn State Erie, the Behrend College.
The Colonials have had contributions from up and down the roster, with every player scoring at least three goals this season. Head coach Scott Reed described this year’s freshman class as one of his deepest, and has said that the tournament will help that group get post-season experience while testing their ability to withstand pressure.
Seniors Ridvan Pehlivan, Brian Mojica, Adam Wrobel, Rafi Castillo and Matthew Williams, all in their final collegiate postseasons, should feel added pressure entering the tournament. Pehlivan and Mojica have been top performers this year: Pehlivan has scored 51 points, and Mojica has added 39.
Junior Bogdan Petkovic has also added 39 points this year and been noted for his defensive prowess, always helpful in a championship setting. Petkovic leads the team in both steals (56) and blocks (16).
In last year’s postseason, keepers Connor Dillon and Sander Profaci split time in the goal and should again this year after posting nearly identical statistical numbers in the net.
GW begins the tournament in the rubber game against No. 4-seeded Johns Hopkins. The Colonials beat the Bluejays on the road 13-11 in October after dropping a match to the team in the Smith Center, 15-13, the week before.
With both games decided by two points, another close matchup is likely. Pehlivan and Petkovic both had big games in each of GW’s matchups with JHU, and will try to carry the team once more.
Johns Hopkins has allowed opponents 62 goals in man-up situations, yielding to the pressure 42 percent of the time. Freshman Pierce Deamer along with Petkovic have excelled at drawing ejections, which GW could use to its advantage against weak teams.
The strength of GW’s division is apparent in the seeds. Seeds from the Southern Division-East take up the top five spots, with the Southern Division-West teams accounting for seeds five through 11.
GW’s second pool play game Friday comes against the No. 9 seed, Salem International, at 8:50 p.m.
The top-five teams from the Southern Division will join the top three teams from the Northern Division, along with four at-large bids, for the CWPA Championship.
The seed seems about right in this case: GW has come out on the losing end of many close matches – four conference losses have come by either one or two points. The team should draw new energy from facing some weaker squads, and the superiority of the East to the West will likely help the Colonials make the CWPA Championship by squeaking by in fifth place.