It’s been a tough spring in the pool for women’s water polo.
The team has a 1-8 record in conference play, and has lost four of its last five games. A clean slate at the Collegiate Water Polo Association Championship could be a welcome motivator for the Colonials, but when the playoffs begin Friday in Princeton, N.J., GW will have to surprise people to finish in the top half of the tournament pack.
The Colonials have operated under interim head coach Adam Foley since the athletic department announced in December that former head coach Scott Reed would not return to the program. The department announced Wednesday that Foley would serve as permanent head coach going forward.
GW has struggled defensively, giving up an average of 11 goals per game and almost 14 goals per game in losses.
The Colonials had a stronger overall season than they did in division play, staying near .500 at 12-14 overall. They struggled on the road, where they went 2-7, but had a winning record of 9-6 in neutral waters, where most of their games will be played this weekend.
The Colonials won just a single conference game, topping St. Francis Brooklyn 18-6 at the end of March. Still, two of GW’s in-league losses came by a single point in overtime. The team continued to play hard despite discouraging results, and some of those outcomes could change if they improve even slightly in postseason play.
The Colonials are led by a young core of players. Freshman attacker Jacqueline Bywater leads GW in scoring with 75 goals, boasts 56 assists and 83 steals, and set a program record with four CWPA Rookie of the Week awards throughout the season as well as two Player of the Week nods. She’s active near the net but sometimes shows her youth when it comes to accuracy with a .383 shooting percentage.
Bywater’s energy has helped her carry the team at times. She tends to score in spurts and could get hot again in the tournament. Bywater scored eight goals and had five steals against St. Francis Brooklyn earlier this season, and she tallied 16 points on 11 goals and seven assists to go with 13 steals in four games at the Convergence Tournament in early March.
Fellow rookie Scarlett Hallahan nearly matched Bywater with 72 goals and was more accurate with a .442 shooting percentage.
The veteran leadership comes in the net, where senior Chandler Vilander has played nearly every minute of the season. Vilander has allowed 281 goals while saving 204 attempts for a .421 save percentage. She has occasionally fed GW’s transition game as well, with 16 assists on the season, and has racked up 26 steals.
The championship, which was originally planned as an 18-game tournament between 11 teams, will now consist of 17 games and 10 teams after Notre Dame College elected not to field a team.
The games will take place Friday through Sunday, with six games taking place on Friday and Saturday to determine seeding for Sunday’s placement games.
The tournament features teams from both Division I and Division II of the CWPA, including Brown, Bucknell, Hartwick College, Harvard, Indiana, Mercyhurst, Princeton and the University of Michigan, plus Division III Champion Connecticut College.
The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships in May, but may have to compete in a play-in game the week before the regular tournament.
Power-shooting team Princeton and defensive powerhouse Indiana are tied for first in the latest CWPA poll, followed by Michigan and Harvard. The Colonials are second from the bottom at ninth, ahead only of Connecticut College.