Updated: Oct. 23, 2017 at 4:15 p.m.
Following four consecutive road losses at the Harvard Invitational, men’s water polo relied on second-half defensive efforts to snap its losing streak and pick up two victories at home this weekend.
The Colonials (12-11, 5-3 MAWPC) trailed by as many as four goals in each of the games before stringing together two second-half comebacks, earning a 19–13 win over Johns Hopkins Friday night and a 16–14 victory over Navy Saturday morning.
GW outscored its opponents 19-9 in the second half during the two games, after allowing a combined 18 goals in the two first halves. The Colonials were either tied or trailing heading into the break during both matches.
Freshman goalkeeper Vaios Vlahotasios said the late-game streaks came from energy created by their defense getting more involved in the game.
“Once our defense started to get in place, we were very motivated and we finished at the other end,” he said. “But it all starts with defense.”
Once the Colonials defense started to gel, the ball started finding the net. GW tallied 22 steals and six blocks over the weekend and held its opponents to just two goals in the final frame.
Against Johns Hopkins, the Colonials gave up six first-quarter goals, the most they have allowed in five games. In the final frame, the Colonials put away seven goals.
Head coach Barry King said early struggles were due in part to injuries leaving the team shorthanded. The Colonials were without junior attacker Brett Else and junior utility player Jack Kerwin Friday – who have combined for 37 points on the year.
“Last weekend kind of took a toll on us, we had a few guys sitting in polos instead of swimsuits,” King said. “We didn’t get to do a whole lot of work this week in terms of practice.”
The victories extended GW’s home win-streak to three games and five total conference victories, with two games to play.
Despite the success at home, King said the shallow end of the Smith Center pool has provided challenges because of how frequently the team plays on the road.
“These are six-foot-four guys in four and a half feet of water, and it’s tough to have your feet off the bottom,” King said. “Then you’re getting penalized for being on the bottom of the pool.”
Prior to the weekend’s action, the Colonials were four points out of the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s top 20 poll. They are set to begin conference tournament play Nov. 17.
Friday night against Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins held a firm advantage for much of the first quarter until GW scored three unanswered points in the final minute.
In the second quarter, GW was more competitive, gaining their first lead of the match in the final minute of the half. Throughout the quarter, possession went back and forth frequently as the teams traded goals.
The first half ended with the teams tied at nine goals apiece.
The Colonials struck first in the second half with freshman utility player Andras Levai’s goal two minutes in, and then maintained their lead throughout the game.
The final quarter was GW’s strongest, the Colonials netted seven goals and secured a win in their first conference game in nearly two weeks.
Sophomore center Andrew Mavis tallied a career-high seven goals against the Blue Jays, while Levai notched six goals and sophomore utility player Atakan Destici tallied six assists.
Junior goalkeeper Austin Pyrch recorded three saves in the first half and Vlahotasios made seven saves in the second half.
Saturday morning against Navy
In their third meeting of the season, the Colonials and the Midshipmen faced off in front of a loud home crowd at the Smith Center.
The Colonials, who previously defeated Navy twice, were off to a fast start, scoring four goals early in the first quarter before letting the Midshipmen put away three unanswered goals.
After ending the first quarter tied 5–5, the Colonials converted only two goals in the second quarter and missed 11 shots to trail 7–9 at the break.
“Our problem was our target selection was just awful,” King said. “We weren’t taking that extra beat to set the shot up correctly and so we were banging things off the bar, hitting the keeper in the chest.”
The Colonials went down to a four-goal deficit after the half due to a weak defense.
“We were making a lot of crucial mistakes on defense,” Destici said. “They were committing counter attacks, and the game was suddenly 12–8.”
A timely goal by senior center Pierce Deamer brought the score within two in the third quarter, pushing the game’s momentum back in favor of the Colonials. Deamer notched another goal and an assist in the quarter.
The Colonials put away the game in the final frame, tallying four more goals to end the weekend with a 16–14 victory.
“We have shown what kind of group we can be when everybody’s in it together,” King said. “When we get selfish, that’s when we get down four goals.”
The Colonials return to action Nov. 4 after a long break to play Wagner and Fordham in New York.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Navy game was in the afternoon, it was in the morning. We regret this error.