Men’s water polo’s record-setting season came to a close in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championship Thursday night.
The Colonials (23-7) were unable to match up with No. 2 UCLA’s (23-4) deep scoring roster. Eleven different Bruins found the back of the net to help them capture an 18–6 victory over GW at Stanford’s Avery Aquatic Center.
The loss marks the end of the team’s best season in program history – one that included its second-consecutive Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Championship title, its first NCAA win and its best win-loss record since the squad’s inception.
Junior center defender Andrew Mavis led GW in scoring on the night, finishing with three goals to his name. Utility players junior Atakan Destici, sophomore Andras Levai and senior Zach Slaughter all also pitched in with one goal each.
Senior goalkeeper Austin Pyrch finished the match with four saves, brining his career total to 582 in his final game.
UCLA’s scoring effort was anchored by senior attacker Austin Rone, freshman attacker Ashworth Molthen and sophomore attacker Nicolas Saveljic – who each tallied three goals.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Alex Wolf – last season’s NCAA Championship’s Most Valuable Player – kept the Colonials from gaining any momentum offensively, stopping nine shots through three quarters of play.
The Colonials got out to a shaky start in the first quarter. In the opening two minutes, the Bruins easily cut through GW’s defense, netting two shots from deep to hop out to a 2-0 lead. The Bruins tallied two more goals before Mavis got the Colonials on the scoreboard with a quick backhand shot from two meters out to cut the differential to 4-1 with just over three minutes left in the frame.
Following another Bruins score, Levai closed the quarter with a quick goal on a 6-on-5 scenario to cap UCLA’s lead at three goals heading into the second quarter.
The Colonials again failed to find the back of the net early in the second frame, allowing the Bruins to net two more goals early on. But a hard shot from Destici found its way past UCLA’s goaltender and cut the Bruins’ lead to 7-3 midway through the second quarter.
With the three minutes left in the frame the Colonials forced back-to-back UCLA turnovers to disrupt the Bruins’ play, but GW did not capitalize on the extra possessions.
An offensive push just before the half helped the Bruins net two unanswered scores and push their lead to six at the break. The Colonials’ three goals was their lowest scoring first half since a Sept. 15 match against Whittier.
Through 16 minutes of play, eight different Bruins had already scored.
UCLA continued to pile on the points after the break, collecting three unanswered goals and aggressively shutting down any of GW’s potential offensive pushes.
The third quarter was the Colonials’ first scoreless frame of the season as UCLA increased its lead by six goals. The Bruins were forced to take difficult shots at times, but their scoring was too consistent for GW to keep up. They entered the four quarter with a 15–3 lead.
Still, the Colonials did not go down without a fight. They matched the Bruins in scoring, going goal-for-goal to close out the game.
Both sides switched out their keepers, giving redshirt junior goalkeeper Matt Taylor and UCLA freshman goalkeeper Danny Roland an opportunity to play on the national stage.
GW ended its scoring drought less than 30 seconds into the final frame after Mavis caught Roland off guard and whipped in a shot right in front of the net. But UCLA’s Rone picked up his third goal of the night seconds later to extend the Bruins’ lead to 16–4.
Mavis tallied his final goal later in the frame after receiving the ball in front of the net and burying it behind UCLA’s keeper as the shot clock expired. Again, the Bruins answered back with a goal of their own.
With less than five minutes left in the contest, Slaughter – a four-year senior – notched his first goal of the game and last of his GW career to round out the Colonials’ scoring at six.
After one more UCLA score, both teams emptied their benches and finished out the game with the victor already apparent.