As water polo took on Harvard in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, freshman attack player Henry Maas watched online from his living room 3,000 miles away in California.
Even though the Colonials (6-1) fell to the Crimson 15–13, the game made Maas even more excited to join GW’s program. He had been keeping track of GW’s performance all season and was anticipating the match because he noticed as the team got closer to beating Harvard in all three matchups last season.
“I just knew, this is a program where I’m going to be able to learn from a great coach and have an impact,” he said.
Maas is one of seven freshmen on the men’s water polo roster this season and a member of the first recruiting class under head coach Barry King.
Through seven games, the rookies have been responsible for 36 percent of the team’s 77 goals scored so far this season. The Colonials won two of their three matchups at the Princeton Invitational this weekend, with their only loss coming in a 12–11 decision against Harvard.
The Colonials began their 2018 campaign with four-straight wins at the Navy Open in Annapolis, Md. last weekend. All seven rookies got on the board for the Colonials in the tournament. Maas and utility player Nick Schroeder racked up four goals a piece in the weekend’s competitions, and attack Josh Yardley notched nine goals to lead the newcomers.
“When I first subbed in, I was like, ‘time to go all out, I gotta put everything out there,’” Maas said. “I think that’s what allowed a lot of the freshmen to excel during their first few games.”
The last time the men’s team had so many freshmen was when the senior class started at GW in 2015 and eight first-year players were rostered for the team.
King said the biggest asset this year’s recruiting class brings to the table is speed, which has already changed the dynamic of the pool for the team and allowed them to play a faster game.
“These guys are fast and really, really change what we can do in the middle of the pool,” King said. “That’s been a great change for us.”
The team lost core starters in the spring as attack player Duke Becker and center Pierce Deamer graduated. Both players brought valuable experience and leadership to the pool, King said.
When he was looking for recruits, King said players stood out if they could be utilized in different ways in the pool.
“As we go about building the program, we’ll look to continue to get guys like that,” King said.
With such a large starting class, Maas said it has been easier to get used to collegiate play while many of his peers are in the same boat as him.
“When we have questions, we know that we’re not the only ones with questions,” Maas said. “These guys will have my back because they know they would have done the same exact thing.”
Maas said he expected first years to be at the bottom of the team’s hierarchy, but instead, the younger players were immediately treated as equals both in and out of games.
Going forward, Schroeder, who found himself in the starting lineup at Navy, said he hopes to continue building on the momentum of the team’s strong start to the season.
“I feel like I already have gotten a lot better with Barry and playing against teammates,” Schroeder said. “So continuing to try to get better every day, even if it’s not noticeable, just work on things I’m not good at.”
King said he is happy with his young players’ early success, but the length of the season paired with academic demands the rookies have not yet experienced will be the true test of how well they have acclimated.
“All of them need to get bigger and learn to love the weight room a bit more and just learn how to thrive under the rhythm of being a collegiate athlete,” King said.
The Colonials return to the pool next weekend in Davis, Calif. to compete in the Aggie Shootout. Their first game is against California Baptist University at 6 p.m.