Women’s water polo looks for leadership among young squad

Media Credit: Graeme Sloan | Contributing Photo Editor

Sophomore utility player Alana Ponce takes a shot during a women's water polo practice Wednesday.

Women’s water polo has its smallest roster since 2010 and does not have a senior on the team for the first time in more than 16 years.

With 13 players rostered, including eight freshmen and sophomores, the Colonials will look to the team’s five juniors to step in and make up the leadership mantle for the young squad.

Head coach Barry King, who is entering his second season with the Colonials, said the search for a leader who will aid in the development of the team’s eight underclassmen is “wide open.”

“There are certain individuals that people gravitate to in our group, maybe based on what they showed last year and their understanding of what I want from leaders in the group,” he said. “But that’s going to be a discovery process almost as much as finding ways to win here.”

The Colonials ended last season with a 14-16 record, their highest winning percentage since the 2013 season when the team went 17-17. The team was the sixth seed in the Collegiate Water Polo Association Championship and ended the tournament with a 1-3 record in the postseason.

Sophomore utility player Alana Ponce, who led the team with 65 goals last season and was selected to the All-Collegiate Water Polo Association Second Team, is among the three returning Colonials who totaled 20 goals or more last year. The other two players include sophomore utility player Jaleh Moaddeli, who totaled 22 goals, and junior utility player Ally Jochim, who had 25 goals.

The team’s sole goalkeeper Samantha Runyon, who recorded a team-high 145 saves last season with a 41.9 save percentage, is also among GW’s juniors.

Ponce said the Colonials will use their smaller roster size as motivation throughout the season both in practice and games.

“We are going to go into each game knowing that it’s going to be a battle and that we won’t have an easy way out but we’re going use that to fuel our fire,” she said.

The Colonials have been working to create a more aggressive offense that scores more effectively in the pool, King said, while simultaneously building up the overall confidence of the team’s younger players.

GW lost key players and experience in utility player Scarlett Hallahan and attacker Jacqueline Bywater, who combined for 70 of the team’s total goals last season before graduating. As freshmen, the duo turned in 81 and 82 goals, respectively.

Now the Colonials will be turning to their newest additions and sophomore returners to step up in goal production.

“A lot of our people come from programs where they may not have been the go-to person, so their socialization is more about sharing the ball and giving it to someone else to finish,” hKing said. “The next few weeks we’re going to see more and more where defenses are designed to stop Alana or are designed to stop Ally, and more and more people need to know when it’s their turn to finish.”

Freshman attacker Hayden Carlson said she is looking forward to getting a chance to contribute to play right out of the gate this season.

“We’re a very small roster this year, so just having another person on the bench or another person in the pool is definitely going to help contribute to our ability to play longer and harder,” she said.

King said women’s water polo will earn more wins if they are continuously striving to improve instead of focusing on each win or loss.

“If you’re focused on the stuff you can control – which is getting better, getting more fit, making the next play because you’re improving your skill set every time you touch the water – then you won’t experience those plateaus,” King said. “You’ll keep climbing that ladder.”

The Colonials begin their season on the road at the Princeton Invitational Saturday at 1 p.m. against St. Francis Brooklyn.

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