Top GW sports moments: Men’s water polo makes program history with NCAA victory

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

The Colonials knocked off the Princeton Tigers to earn their first-ever NCAA Tournament match win.

In lieu of fall sports, we’re dusting off the history books and taking a look back on 10 of the best GW sports moments, ever. Here’s to hoping some old-fashioned nostalgia can keep us going until the restart.

No. 9: Men’s water polo nabs NCAA victory, program-best record

The 2018 men’s water polo squad put together a historic season culminating in the program’s first NCAA tournament win and its second straight Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference.

Helmed by then-second year head coach Barry King, the Colonials achieved a 23-7 overall record, tying the 1997 squad with the most wins in program history. The feat came just three years after the Colonials went winless in conference play.

The Colonials earned a taste of postseason victory in 2017 when they won their first conference title and earned their first NCAA tournament berth. The team collected 17 victories – the most in a single season since 1998.

But after taking home the MAWPC 2017 Championship with a victory over Wagner, Harvard edged the squad in its NCAA debut with a 15—13 overtime thriller and sent it back to Foggy Bottom with a renewed vigor for 2018.

The squad kicked off the season with a bang, winning all four of its games at the Navy Open, including a heavy-hitting battle with No. 20 Wagner to open the tournament. GW knocked off No. 16 California Baptist and Iona before falling to No. 9 Harvard 12—11 to close out the Princeton Invitational.

The Aggie Roundup proved difficult for the Colonials. The team began and bookended the tournament with losses to ranked opponents, including an overtime loss to No. 17 San Jose State to send the Colonials into conference play.

GW split its first two conference games, smashing La Salle in an 11-goal victory and falling to Wagner by three goals. The Colonials bounced back to string together four-straight wins, including a 20—9 defeat over No. 15 Bucknell.

Bucknell would enact its revenge eight days later, besting GW 13—12. The Colonials quickly overcame the setback with another four-game win streak. Wagner returned to ruin the team’s rhythm and handed the squad an 18—16 loss.

The Colonials capped the regular season with a 17—8 victory over Navy to complete a 19-6 regular season record. The No. 2-seeded team bounced McKendree and Wagner in the MAWPC tournament quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

GW then squared up with Bucknell in a rematch of the 2017 final. GW topped Bucknell 12—11 in overtime to add a second banner in the Smith Center and earn its second straight NCAA tournament berth.

The team faced off with No. 12 Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament. After falling five goals behind the Tigers, the Colonials scored six unanswered points to take the lead. Princeton struck late, scoring with 26 seconds left to send the contest into overtime.

The Tigers scored early in extra minutes, but the Colonials netted back-to-back possessions and shut out the Tigers until the final buzzer sounded on a 14—13 win.

In the quarterfinals, GW traveled West to take on the No. 2-seeded and defending national champions UCLA. The Bruins put the Colonials in a four-goal hole early in the first quarter and kept the offense bumping throughout the game, scoring at least three goals each quarter.

The Colonials, led by junior center Andrew Mavis, countered with six goals — three of which came in the fourth quarter. But the effort wasn’t enough, and the Bruins nabbed an 18—6 win.

Despite the loss, the 2018 season was a series of firsts for the then-34-year-old program. GW nabbed its first NCAA tournament win, its highest ranking at No. 11 and the best record in program history. The team made it to the MAWPC final for the third straight year in 2019 but fell short of the title in a loss to Bucknell.

A trio of upperclassmen in Mavis, senior goalkeeper Austin Pyrch and junior utility player Atakan Destici led the squad throughout the regular and postseason. Destici and Pyrch notched All-Conference First Team nods, while Mavis was selected to the All-Conference Second Team. All three earned a spot on the MAWPC Championship All-Tournament First Team.

Destici cemented himself into the record books as No. 1 in assists against the Bruins. He tacked on 44 helpers his senior season to top off 238 career assists. Mavis and Destici sit at No. 3 (279) and No. 5 (259), respectively, in career goals. Pyrch’s 2018 performance ranks him within the top three in single-season saves (302) and save percentage (55 percent).

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