No. 16 men’s water polo goes 2–1 in league play opening

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Sophomore Brett Else shoots the ball around a defender's outstretched arm in a match against Wagner Saturday. Else recorded one assist in the Colonials' 16–9 victory.

The international duo of freshman Atakan Destici and redshirt senior Bogdan Petkovic helped No. 16 men’s water polo outscore opponents a combined 45–31 in the team’s three-game homestand this past weekend.

GW went 2–1 to open CWPA Mid Atlantic-East Division play — defeating Wagner 16–9 and Fordham 18–6 Saturday but falling to No. 13 Bucknell 16–11 Sunday morning.

Turkish-born Destici, who leads the Colonials with 36 goals this season, scored a team-best 19 goals over the three-game span. Bogdan, a native of Serbia, added seven points.

“They’re two fantastic players, and they have complementary skills because they’re slightly different types of players, they can both do some amazing things offensively,” head coach Adam Foley said. “Bogdan bought into hanging around an extra year, and Atakan has come in and been a fantastic addition, and he is really learning under Bogdan’s tutelage about how things need to get done.”

Although the offensive was solid all weekend, Foley said GW’s defense could have been stronger.

Sophomore goalkeepers Matt Taylor and Austin Pyrch held the Seahawks and Rams to single-digit scoring totals Saturday but combined for just nine saves in the five-goal loss to Bucknell.

“Our team defense is the backbone of what drives us,” Foley said. “We’re still trying to clean it up, we can still get better, and we certainly have some things that we can learn from and improve upon. It’s our kind of philosophy that defense is going to be what we can pride ourselves on and count on.”

Game 1:
The Colonials (5–4, 2–1 Mid-Atlantic Conference) led the whole way in the opener against Wagner, getting off to a fast start and building a 10–0 lead into halftime.

Destici scored five first-half goals, and Taylor and Pyrch made several impressive saves to maintain a shutout through two quarters.

Wagner responded with a 5–1 run in the third quarter, capitalizing on the Colonials’ defensive mistakes, but two more goals from Destici gave GW a 12–6 advantage going into the fourth quarter.

Thanks to contributions from role players senior Alex Swart, sophomore Jack Kerwin and junior Noah McKinnie Braun, the Colonials closed out a 16–9 victory.

Game 2
The Colonials fell behind 2–1 early in the nightcap but dominated the rest of the way, scoring six goals in the second quarter and seven in the third to cushion their lead.

Destici played well on both sides of the ball, accounting for six goals, four assists and six steals.

Petkovic, the team-leader in steals, had four against the Rams and made several key defensive plays. His three goals, in addition to contributions from juniors Pierce Deamer and Duke Becker and freshman Andrew Mavis, catapulted GW to a 12-point victory.

Game 3
The Colonials’ defense was tested again Sunday — this time against the 13th-ranked Bucknell Bison (9–1).

The Colonials fell behind 6–4 but scored three consecutive goals to take a 7–6 lead. The game was physical in the second quarter, with several GW players calling for fouls.

Bucknell and GW traded blows but defensive lapses in the third quarter ultimately doomed the Colonials, who fell behind 12–9 and couldn’t a way back into the game.

Despite a solid effort from Destici and Petkovic — who combined for seven goals and five assists — and several timely saves from Taylor, the Bison stifled the Colonials’ potent offensive attack and stopped several fast-break opportunities.

“We have quite a few new players, we’ve lost a few, so it’s just about working together and communicating,” Taylor said. “We’ve had a few problems with keeping our defense consistent. People aren’t blocking, picking up their guys, but it’s still early in the season so we can definitely work on that and improve on that.”

After the weekend’s matches, the Colonials move to 5–4 overall and 2–1 in conference play.

GW heads to the Bronx next Sunday to face Fordham and Wagner a second time with the opportunity to complete a sweep of both squads.

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