Men’s water polo falls in conference championship to Bucknell

Media Credit: File Photo by Connor Witschonke | Staff Photographer

Sophomore utility player Nick Schroeder throws the ball during a game in early November.

For the first time since 2017, the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference champions will not hail from GW.

The Colonials (22–9, 9–3 MAWPC) managed four goals against Bucknell, marking their lowest goal total in a single match in more than two years. Junior utility player Andras Levai scored a team-leading three goals, and sophomore utility player DJ Davis chipped in with one goal.

Competing for a title is nothing new for the Colonials, who boast two MAWPC titles and two NCAA tournament appearances in the past three years. But this loss breaks the team’s streak of championships, and players will now not be eligible to compete for the NCAA crown.

The Colonials downed Johns Hopkins 17–9 Friday and Fordham 9–5 Saturday before facing Bucknell.

Despite the outcome, head coach Barry King said he is still optimistic about the program’s outlook, and the team had a “pretty successful year” overall. This season marks the first without a conference title under King, who is closing out his third season at the helm.

“I don’t think this singular result is going to stop us from continuing to be successful and build a program and have the success be sustainable,” King said. “The bottom line is we shot the ball poorly at the worst time you could possibly shoot the ball poorly.”

Last year, GW claimed the MAWPC championship over Bucknell in a 12–11 overtime finish. They also carried a slightly better record, ending 23–7 on the season versus this season’s 22–9 record.

The Colonials nabbed an 11–10 victory over the Bison two weeks ago after dropping the pair’s first meeting 13–8 Oct. 13.

“All the credit in the world to Bucknell,” King said. “You know what they had designed to take away from us, they were closer to what they wanted to do as a team than we were. That’s the bottom line of the whole thing.”

King added that the missed chances early on made players rush offensive pushes and prevented them from getting into a groove.

“We missed a couple good opportunities early and then started to press and rush from there,” King said. “We just never got in a good flow and then when we didn’t make stops early, that put us on our heels even more so.”

The Bison jumped out to an early lead, ending the first quarter up 4-1 on the Colonials. GW’s lone goal came from a penalty shot by Levai with two minutes remaining in the quarter.

Bucknell’s defense was able to ruin scoring chances for the Colonials throughout the match, running out the shot clock after a steal by senior utility player Atakan Destici in the first quarter and intercepting several passes.

Sloppy ball-handling and inaccurate shooting made the difference for GW. Turnovers and missed shots wasted valuable opportunities and prevented the Colonials from gaining back points, King said.

“It really just came down to the fact that we didn’t shoot the ball with any kind of confidence at all,” King said.

GW scored early in the second quarter thanks to an outside skip shot from Davis. But a quick goal from Bucknell killed the Colonials’ momentum. The Bisons were able to score another goal from a fast break only a few minutes later, giving them a 7–2 lead.

The Colonials earned multiple exclusions throughout the contest, and King was given a yellow card for voicing his discontent. Earlier this season, King was barred from coaching the Colonials’ home opener against Fordham after receiving a red card in a previous contest.

With less than two minutes left in the third quarter, Levai snuck GW’s third goal past a two-handed diving attempt by Bucknell’s goalkeeper. He struck again early in the fourth quarter, cutting Bucknell’s lead in half with his third goal of the game.

The Colonials had been successful at blocking shots from the corner throughout the game, stopping eight of nine chances before an exclusion against Destici gave Bucknell another corner throw. But GW’s defensive luck ran out, and the Bison sealed GW’s fate with their ninth and final goal of the contest.

“Up until two minutes and 40 seconds to go, we were just trying to score goals,” King said. “It was just about getting the ball in the attacking zone as quickly as possible.”

With three minutes left in the MAWPC final, Bucknell players only had to run out the clock to secure their championship title.

After the match, Levai, graduate student goalkeeper Matt Taylor and senior center Andrew Mavis were all selected for the First Team All-Tournament Team, while Destici was honored with a Second Team nomination.

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