Following consecutive championships, men’s water polo enters season as team to beat

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

The Colonials will begin the season Saturday, the first of four tournaments on their challenging 2019-20 schedule.

Updated: Sept. 5, 2019 at 3:56 p.m.

After back-to-back Mid-Atlantic Conference Championships, men’s water polo returns to the pool with a bullseye on its back.

Recently named the MAWP co-favorite along with Bucknell in the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference, the Colonials enter the 2019-20 season in pursuit of their third consecutive conference championship. They were also ranked No. 15 nationally in the Collegiate Water Polo Association preseason poll.

Head coach Barry King said the team was viewed as an underdog before its first and second conference championships, but now the Colonials’ competition will see them as the team to beat.

“It’s a matter of going out and playing, accepting the responsibility of your past good deeds and knowing that we’re going to get everybody’s best shot because we’ve won a couple times in a row,” King said.

The Colonials will begin the season Saturday at the Air Force invitational, the first of four tournaments on their challenging 2019-20 schedule. They are slated to face nine teams that ranked in the top 20 nationally last season.

King said setting a challenging schedule allows his team to continue to prove its mettle.

“It’s important to have a balance in your schedule, depending on where your program is in its development,” King said. “After having the success we’ve had in the last couple years, to continue to sustain that and to remind ourselves that we’re supposed to be pretty good, that the strength of the schedule has to increase.”

The squad finished the season with a program-best 23–7 record and earned the first NCAA win in program history, toppling Princeton 14–13 in an overtime thriller.

The Colonials will retain the bulk of their offense this season, with six of their seven leading scorers returning. Utility player and 2019-graduate Jack Kerwin, who ranked fourth in scoring, netted 53 goals for the Colonials.

Among these returnees are center Andrew Mavis and utility player Atakan Destici. The pair of seniors combined for a team-leading 168 goals and were the only players with more than 50 attempts to shoot above 50 percent.

With 194 career assists – a program record – Destici serves as a catalyst for the entire offense, facilitating scoring for all of his teammates. He also led the roster in almost every statistical category last season, earning the most goals (85), attempts (168) and fast breaks (16) of the team.

Destici said he wants to work hard not only for himself, but for his teammates to help the squad earn another high-performing year.

“My mindset has always been to work hard, so when I work hard I want to satisfy myself,” Destici said. “I want to see results. And my teammates are amazing, I want to succeed for them and do what I can for my team.”

While GW’s offense is largely the same as last year, the squad will have an adjustment in goal. Following the graduation of primary goalkeeper Austin Pyrch, who’s 582 saves rank No. 5 in program history, graduate student Matt Taylor is set to replace him.

Taylor made a few starts last year, working back from a hip injury that sidelined him for the 2017 season. This season, he is the only rostered goalkeeper, meaning he will compete in all 28 games.

Only having one goalkeeper is a change from past seasons, when the Colonials have carried and used multiple people between the pipes. While one goalkeeper heightens the risk of fatigue and injury, King said the arrangement will bring some stability to the team.

“It will be freeing for both Matt and I, because now he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder, and I don’t have anyone to threaten him with,” King said. “Then the conversation turns a lot more to, ‘Hey, how can we fix what’s going on?’”

Taylor added that being the only goalkeeper gives him more opportunities to work on his technique using feedback from coaches and players.

“Being the only goalie in practice means I get more reps in goal, more training,” Taylor said. “I’m going to be fitter than in other years, so that will help a lot.”

Despite the irregular playing time, Taylor owned the highest save percentage on the team last year and recorded 99 blocks on the season.

The Colonials open their season Saturday at the Air Force Invitational against Air Force. Swim off is slated for 2:45 p.m.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the men’s water polo team was selected A-10 championship co-favorites. They were MAWP co-favorites. We regret this error.

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