Men’s water polo will travel to Annapolis, Md. this weekend to begin its postseason action as the No. 2 seed in the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference championship.
The Colonials (14-11, 7-3 MAWPC) will face No.7 Gannon (17-6, 7-0 MAWPC), a Division II team who claimed the MAWPC West Region title, at 7 p.m. Friday. Whether they win or lose, their next game will be Saturday against either Johns Hopkins or Fordham.
“It’s time to perform,” senior center Pierce Deamer said. “We’ve put in so much work and now it’s a time to step back. We’re here to show what we’ve learned from these past four months.”
The Colonials have won their last four consecutive contests, including tightly contested games against Fordham and Wagner earlier this month. Head coach Barry King said his team has peaked at the right moment heading into the weekend.
“We’ve gotten two weekends off in the past three so we’ve had some time to get physically fit and right,” he said. “I like where we’re at in terms of motivation and energy levels and attention to what we need to do.”
Keeping focused and working on defensive consistency in the pool will be key for this weekend, Deamer said.
“Just keeping an even pace for the whole entire game, not getting too emotionally high or low and just keep going at one pace,” he said. “We know we’re a very good team, it’s just being confident as well.”
In past outings, GW struggled with maintaining its strength throughout games – especially on the defensive end, King said. But in the past four games the Colonials had a higher scoring average than the season.
In their games against Johns Hopkins, Navy, Wagner and Fordham, GW scored an average of 14.25 goals per game while allowing on average 11.5 goals scored against. The Colonials’ season average before those games was 11.4 goals scored per game.
“We’re doing a better job of controlling the job offensively and maximizing possessions,” King said. “If we can continue to do that it makes games a little shorter for us.”
On the 17-man squad, GW is led in scoring by sophomore center Andrew Mavis, sophomore utility player Atakan Destici and freshman utility player Andras Levai. The trio have combined for 174 of the team’s 319 total goals on the year so far.
Mavis, who leads the Colonials with 70 goals and 26 steals, said the team has grown from earlier season struggles like late-game mistakes, and his teammates’ mental toughness is important heading into postseason play.
After a season of playing together, the young players have figured out each other’s idiosyncrasies in the pool and adjusted to the inherent growing pain, King said.
“Every additional minute that they get together is exponential compared to what they had at the beginning of the year,” King said. “We’ve solidified and people understand pretty well what each other is supposed to do.”
Despite GW’s offense being led by underclassmen, the team’s seniors are using their past playoff experience to give advice to their younger teammates, especially when it comes to playoff mentality.
“We’re all on the same level,” senior attacker Duke Becker said. “Each one of us can speak up, each one of us is a captain, each one of us is a player-coach, so I think that’s really great.”
Last season, GW played in the final of the MAWPC tournament, also as the No. 2 seed, falling to Bucknell 12-5. Deamer said heading into this season’s tournament that his mentality hasn’t changed.
“I did that last year and I gave a little advice to the guys,” Deamer said. “’Don’t go into the championship weekend thinking it’s championship weekend, we’re coming in here to play three games. Nothing more.’”
Aside from Gannon, the Colonials have played every other team in the tournament earlier this year. Despite defeating Navy twice in the season and Fordham in November, players said they know they still need to fight for every win.
“Any team can beat each other so I think we have to be ready for anyone in every game,” Becker said. “Just expecting the unexpected.”