Men’s water polo enters Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference play with an 8–3 record – the second consecutive year the team has owned a winning record heading into conference matches.
Despite a strong beginning through nonconference play that saw GW win against two conference opponents, head coach Barry King said the Colonials will be “getting everybody’s best shot” once MAWPC play starts, and teams will struggle if they take anyone in the league “for granted.”
“The league is just flat out better,” King said. “So there’s still an element of learning and doubt that who knows what a new kid on somebody else’s team brings to them in terms of their team dynamic and how competitive they’re going to be.”
The defending MAWPC champions started out their season with four-straight wins at the Navy Open, including two wins over MAWPC opponents Wagner and La Salle. The team earned a 15–14 victory over No. 20 Wagner in a rematch of last year’s MAWPC final and a considerable 22–3 win over conference opponent La Salle.
They followed with two wins and a loss at the Princeton Invitational earlier this month, edging out No. 16 California Baptist 8–7 before falling 11–12 to No. 9 Harvard in a rematch of last season’s NCAA tournament.
During their nonconference slate, the Colonials played as many as four games in two days. In conference play, the team will get a week or so between games, which King said will help the team prepare more focused strategies.
Conference play also means another shot at winning the league’s title for GW.
“We understand that they’re must-win games but at the same time I think there’s no reason to put added pressure on,” junior center Andrew Mavis, who has a team-leading 31 goals, said. “I think everyone understands the weight that they carry in terms of seeding.”
Seven freshmen on board for the season gives GW the added advantage of being able to rely on its younger players. The rookies are responsible for 23 percent of the team’s 158 total goals scored so far this season.
“Our chemistry is at an all-time high, I’d say,” junior center defender Jordan Blosser said. “They fit in perfectly and they compliment what we needed really well.”
With nearly every player who’s seen minutes in the pool tallying at least one goal, the Colonials’ well-rounded offense will make the team harder to defend, junior utility player Atakan Destici said.
“On offense, our mindset is far away from selfishness,” he said.
Destici ranks second on the team with 29 goals and has a team-high 23 assists to his name.
On the defensive end, senior goalkeeper Austin Pyrch has tallied 121 saves on the season – including a career-high 15 stops and an assist against No. 17 San Jose State.
Last season, the Colonials conceded 111 goals in their 10 games leading up to MAWPC play. But this year heading into the conference, Pyrch has let up 10 fewer goals in a slate that included one additional game.
With conference play two days away, King said the team needs to work on the pacing of its attack on offense as well as its power plays, but more time in between games gives the team more time to make strategic adjustments and better scout opponents.
“I’m just looking forward to getting started and the stuff that we really do this for in the pursuit of a championship,” King said. “The path to a championship is what makes a lot of this worthwhile, so this is exciting times.”