After a disjointed water polo season last year, graduate student utility player Andras Levai is aiming to make the most of his final season with the Colonials.
The Colonials (5-6, 3-0 A-10) have opened up conference play with three straight victories, turning their luck after falling into a six-game losing streak early on in the non-conference slate. Levai has proved vital to the team’s offense as he leads the team with 29 goals.
Levai has started all ten games while maintaining a 39.2 percent shooting average. He was named the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Player of the Week for his performance at the Princeton Invitational, marking the fourth award of his sterling career as he racked up 10 goals and six steals across three games.
Levai said he comes from a long line of water polo players as both his father and grandfather played for KSI SE, the same club team in Budapest, Hungary where Levai started his career. He was named team captain during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, helping the team claim two consecutive national championships. He registered 45 goals and 73 assists in a span of 17 games, along with 33 steals in his final season.
In addition to his club team, Levai played with Hungary’s junior national team for two years. He said was “honored” to represent his country and would do it again if the opportunity was presented. He said he fit right in on the U.S. water polo scene, which he said is more suited to his counterattacking and swimming style compared to the static and physical nature of European play.
The Hungarian native is the sole graduate student on the team and the last member of the team remaining from the 2017 and 2018 NCAA tournament runs. He said stepping into a leadership role in his final year at GW has been a “tough challenge,” but said his experience as a team captain for KSI has prepared him.
“It really puts a lot of pressure on your responsibility, but after a while, you get used to it,” Levai said. “And you actually just love the feeling of sometimes people relying on you, and you have the responsibility to push people and try to get the best out of them. That’s the same thing over here.”
Head coach Barry King said Levai has evolved in an “exponential” manner by supporting and learning from older players throughout his time at GW, allowing him to step into his leadership role this year. He said Levai’s “wealth of experience” has served him well as the team tries to find its rhythm after a disorganized season last year.
“He has a way better understanding of what I want, and how I want us to behave and just how the team should function than anybody else,” King said.
Senior attack player Henry Maas said in addition to being the “best player” on the team, Levai always has the best attitude, making sure the team is staying focused even when the team is struggling.
“Andras is the sort of player that every day when you get in the pool with him, he makes you a stronger and harder athlete,” Maas said. “He really teaches you resilience.”
Levai said he was grateful for the NCAA rule extending his eligibility after missing out on much of his senior season due to scheduling issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he thought he was “never going to play again.” Now that he has another season, Levai said he plans on making the most out of it and helping the team go out on a high note.
Levai has seen a lot in his lengthy and storied career at GW. In the 2018 season, Levai proved to be essential during the MAWPC Championship as he recorded two goals to help the Colonials secure an overtime victory over Bucknell. He was named to the All-Tournament Second Team after netting a career-high 72 goals overall and 67 assists during the season.
But he said the most memorable moment for him was GW’s comeback win over Princeton during their 2018 NCAA run. Levai scored three goals in the second half to help the Colonials overcome a five-goal deficit and defeat the Tigers in a 14–13 overtime victory.
“We managed to pull together and just because we love each other, we would fight with each other until the end,” Levai said.
Levai said he hopes to instill a similar feeling amongst the first-year players on this year’s squad. He said his only focus is to win and the team is willing to “die” for each other every time they get in the pool. He said he wants to make sure the team succeeds well after he is gone.
“When I’m done after this year, I want the team to keep on winning championships,” Levai said. “I want them to become the leader I am trying to be and just play with passion. Even in the easier games, just come out hard and play for each other.”
The Colonials will hit the road for another non-conference matchup against California Baptist Friday. Swim-off is set for 1:15 p.m.