Men’s water polo runs into challenges in conference play

Media Credit: Sam Frey | Hatchet Photographer

Junior Brett Else prepares to throw the ball during men's water polo's game against Bucknell Saturday.

After winning its opening conference game on the road against Navy Saturday afternoon, men’s water polo struggled to win at the Smith Center over the weekend – going 1-2 despite outscoring its opponents by one goal.

As the team heads into Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference action, head coach Barry King pinpointed a few major areas in need of improvement, including shot-blocking and shot selection.

“There are a lot of things that we can use as a base to improve in terms of energy that we brought in the middle of the pool,” King said.

The team connected on 33.3 percent of its shots against Bucknell Saturday and 24.1 percent against Fordham Sunday. Heading into the weekend, GW averaged 45 percent shooting.

“There’s a difference between shooting the ball and scoring,” King said. “Right now our attitude is to shoot the ball and we’ve got to get better at scoring the ball.”

One of the team’s bright spots has been the success of underclassmen on the roster. Five of the nine players who scored during the weekend were either freshmen or sophomores.

Freshmen Andras Levai and Kerim Sismanoglu and sophomores Atakan Destici, Andrew Mavis and Jordan Blosser scored 24 of the 33 overall goals this weekend.

The two freshmen attackers gave the team an advantage, balancing out the Colonials offense as the only left-handed players.

“I’m always impressed by them. They always challenge us which is always great, especially for the old guys,” senior center Pierce Deamer said. “They challenge us every day because we don’t want to get punked by some 18-year-old, but they do very well and I’m really happy with their play.”

Saturday night vs. Bucknell
After a 17–12 road win against Navy earlier in the day, the Colonials (7-6, 1-2 MAWPC) returned to the Smith Center to face Bucknell Saturday night.

GW fell short against the 2016 conference champions in a hotly contested game as the Bison (7-6, 3-0 MAWPC) came away with a 12–9 victory.

After ending a slow first period trailing 2–0 to the Bison, the Colonials picked up three goals in the second quarter. Sismanoglu tallied two goals and Deamer contributed one to bring the game within one score at halftime.

The strong offensive play didn’t continue into the second half as the Bison took a commanding five-goal lead in the third quarter.

Late in the fourth period, the Colonials brought the game within two points.

Mavis and Levai put up two goals apiece in the final frame, but the Bison put up three of their own to hold onto the win.

“We kind of lost our composure,” Deamer said. “Bucknell is a good team. Any little mistake you make, they’re going to capitalize.”

Sunday afternoon vs. Fordham
The Colonials came back on Sunday afternoon to face a 7-3 Fordham team. GW started off the game with fast, aggressive play and ended the first period with four goals from four different players.

“I did like through the weekend that we got contributions from across the board,” King said. “Almost everybody had some good bright spots in there.”

After their hot start, the Colonials struggled to find the scoreboard, tallying one goal in the opening moments of the second quarter before going scoreless through the beginning of the fourth period.

Deamer scored two quick goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game with 39 seconds left in the match, but GW was unable to complete the comeback and ended the weekend with a 7–8 loss to the Rams.

Heading into Sunday’s match, the Colonials had only lost to teams ranked higher than them and had been consistently winning in games where they were the favorite. In the latest rankings from Sept. 20, the Colonials were positioned at No. 18 in the nation.

“I’m a little disappointed,” King said. “We had good structure and we created things well and then just would vomit out the shot rather than finish the way it had been built.”

After struggling to stop Bucknell from getting shots at the net, the Colonials held Fordham to only eight goals – tied for their second-lowest total of the year.

“Defensively we were better to a certain point, we shot-blocked better for the most part, still made a few mistakes there that cost us goals, but today was all about offense,” King said.

The Colonials resume their season in Baltimore against Johns Hopkins Friday at 7 p.m.

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