On the tail end of an 11-day stretch with no games against conference opponents, men’s water polo has spent its recent run attempting to squash early-season errors that led to losses.
Instead of resting, the No. 19 Colonials (15–5, 5–2 MAWPC) have been in the Smith Center pool – both for practice and for two tune-up contests against Division III opponents – focusing on upping their identity and effort before resuming conference play Friday. Head coach Barry King said the improved spirit was essential after Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference games, where he criticized his team for seeming complacent just ahead of the championship tournament.
“That’s kind of been our battle this year,” King said. “Instead of being our best self and making people come to our level, we’ve been playing to the level of the opponent quite a bit. So moving forward through the rest of the season, it’s going to be a major focus.”
As defending conference champions, GW currently sits in second place behind No. 17 Bucknell with five games left in the season. Four of the five will be played at home for the Colonials – a location they have been undefeated (4–0) in so far this year.
Their five losses have come through a combined nine goals, including three games dropped by a one-goal margin. GW’s two conference losses came at the hands of Wagner and Bucknell, two programs the Colonials defeated previously in the season and entered the game with a higher rank.
King said he hopes the losses will “mentally wear” on the players.
“I honestly don’t feel like we’ve been beat this year,” King said. “We have put ourselves in a position to lose five games and that’s what we’ve done, and so if they are reflective on it and they are saying, ‘hey we need to do this and this better,’ as an individual plus as a team, then that’s all good for us.”
During their break from conference play, the Colonials also focused more on their conditioning and fitness than other practices so they could power through late-season exhaustion.
“There’s not much left,” sophomore utility player Andras Levai said. “So we’ve got to really put some effort into all of our practices and take everything seriously.”
In their games last weekend against Austin College and Connecticut College, the Colonials worked on refining their skills and practicing plays to prepare for the back half of their conference season.
“Obviously we respect the team and we took them seriously,” Levai said after the team’s game against Austin College. “That’s how we can actually practice a lot of stuff for the big games.”
Levai currently leads the team with 44 assists and 45 goals. The team’s offensive production this season has produced nine 20-plus goal games, and 15 players on the team’s 18-man roster have recorded at least six goals.
“Our offense has been a lot better, I believe, this year than last year,” Levai said. “We have to work on our defense a lot more, because our defense can be sloppy sometimes, but we’ve still got time before the championships to figure it out.”
King said the team is ahead of last year’s squad in terms of skill and organization, but is still looking for a vocal leader to step up heading into the final stretch of MAWPC play.
“The general joy of competing and the spirit, esprit de corps, we’re a little challenged that way right now,” King said. “This is a very clinical group compared to last year – last year had some emotional leaders and we’re looking for those guys right now.”
The Colonials return to action Friday when they host Navy at 7 p.m.