Women’s water polo looks to break out of conference rut

Media Credit: Jack Fonseca | Hatchet Photographer

Freshman attacker Hannah Hathaway throws the ball during a women's water polo practice last week.

Women’s water polo has not won more than two games in Collegiate Water Polo Association play since 2005.

With four outings left in the regular season, the Colonials (11-11, 1-3 CWPA) are currently on pace to match that record and continue the streak. They won two less non-conference games than last year, but players said they are focusing on making their own mark under the first-year leadership of head coach Barry King.

“We are here to make a difference,” senior center defender Maggie Ball said. “We are ready to shake things up and come out and make that a little different this year.”

The Colonials completed their first weekend of CWPA play last weekend, picking up one win and three losses in games played Saturday and Sunday. They lost 20-10 to Hartwick and 20-9 to Michigan Saturday – games where King said they got into the action too slowly.

GW dropped another game Sunday in a 9-5 loss to Indiana, making this the fourth year in a row the Colonials have lost their first three CWPA contests. After the match, King – who served for 19 seasons as the Hoosiers’ head coach before taking the helm in Foggy Bottom – said it was “fun to see those kids from the other side.”

Despite the loss, King said GW’s game against Indiana – who holds a 14-0 all-time record against the Colonials – showed a team that was ready to play at the CWPA level.

“If we play the level we did during the first half against Indiana consistently through next weekend and the championship tournament, things are going to turn out pretty good for us,” King said.

The Colonials’ only conference win came against Saint Francis Sunday afternoon when they defeated the Red Flash 10–1 – the fewest goals GW has held an opponent to all year.

Freshman utility player Alana Ponce racked up a team-high eight goals across the four games, followed by sophomore utility player Ally Jochim’s seven goals. Ponce said the weekend’s conference games give the Colonials a baseline for what they need to do the rest of the season.

“We’re getting into a lot more focused work with teams, so it’s gonna be basically just learning about the other teams and that’s gonna show us how successful we’re going to be,” Ponce said.

Throughout the season, GW’s offense has been led by Ponce, who owns a team-leading 50 goals to her name. She is one of the three freshmen who top the Colonials stat sheet in scoring.

The Colonials have had seven players in double-digit scoring and seven players have tallied double-digit assists so far in the season.

But King said the veteran leadership of the team’s six seniors is just as important and would prove advantageous for the squad that skews on the younger side. This year’s seniors have played under three different coaches and now hold a 35-55 record over the first three years of their career.

“Having some people who have things to still play for and want to finish their GW careers on the uptick and with a certain amount of pride, that’s always beneficial for the youngsters that maybe haven’t gotten as entrenched in it,” King said.

Looking to the rest of the season, King said the Colonials will need to tighten up their team defense to improve their conference play.

“We are going to work on our power play some more, attacking and finding first opportunities instead of passing the ball for the sake of passing the ball,” he said. “We are going to work on shot blocking and the stuff that we need to refine and really do well on a daily basis to have a chance to win.”

The Colonials return to action next weekend to finish off their final four CWPA contests. They will take on Princeton, Harvard, Bucknell and Brown in Princeton, N.J.

King said GW still has a chance to accomplish its goals and make a splash in the postseason if the team stays committed to its improved play.

“We’ve got four very winnable contests and that would put us firmly in the middle of the pack going into the championship tournament,” King said. “That’s really what our focus is – to put us in the best position to win some games in the last weekend in April.”

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