Men’s water polo earns best season record in 20 years

Men’s water polo dominated Johns Hopkins in a 15–7 win over the Blue Jays Saturday morning at a packed Smith Center pool.

The victory earned the Colonials (18-6, 8-3 MAWPC) their 18th win of the season, the team’s most since 1998. GW never trailed the Blue Jays (7-16, 2-9 MAWPC) in the Colonials’ final home game of the year.

Heading into the match the Colonials were coming off a split doubleheader. GW picked up a win against Fordham but fell to Wagner last weekend in the teams’ third meeting of the year.

Head coach Barry King said the Colonials played better all-around defense against Johns Hopkins, which in turn energized the offense.

“We’re really good when we’re attacking out of the defense and letting our counter-attack provide us some space and opportunities early in the clock,” King said.

Prior to the game, the team’s four seniors – goalkeeper Austin Pyrch, attacker Brett Else, and utility players Jack Kerwin and Zach Slaughter – were honored.

In the first quarter it was apparent defense would be a key to success for the team, with the Colonials recording a number of crucial blocks and steals to keep Johns Hopkins at bay.

Junior utility player and leading goal-scorer Atakan Destici continued his stretch of dominance, finding the back of the net two minutes into the game for his first of three total goals on the day.

Sophomore utility player Andras Levai, who tallied four goals in the game, also scored in the first quarter on a penalty shot, but Johns Hopkins kept the pressure on the Colonials, bringing the game to within one with a score of 3–2 to end the first frame.

“We had great momentum from the beginning, our offense was working great, our defense was also top-notch today,” Levai said. “Last week it just didn’t work out so we added a couple of extra things to the offense, and it looks like it worked out well in today’s game.”

King constantly rotated the team’s lineup toward the end of each quarter, swapping out his starters for the team’s younger players including freshman utility player Nick Schroeder and freshman attacker Josh Yardley, who each scored a goal in the game.

Connor Witschonke | Staff Photographer

Freshman Josh Yardley throws the ball during Saturday’s home match against Johns Hopkins.

GW pulled away in the second quarter, recording four total goals in the frame – two each from Levai and junior center Andrew Mavis – while holding Johns Hopkins to just one. Coming into the game with 220 saves on the season, Pyrch recorded several key saves throughout the game to give his team an edge.

The Colonials continued to play tight defense Coming out of halftime with a 7–3 lead. GW forced Johns Hopkins to pass the ball around frequently without getting many good looks at the net.

Both Mavis and Levai scored again in the third frame, but despite the Colonials’ smothering defense, the Blue Jays were able to score twice in the quarter and inch closer to the team’s lead.

Working with a 10–5 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Destici opened the final frame with a goal, followed by a dominant showing from junior center defender Jordan Blosser, who scored two goals in the final five minutes of the game. GW’s continued defensive onslaught held Johns Hopkins to single-digit scoring to end the game.

With sophomores and juniors scoring the majority of the team’s goals in the match, senior utility player Jack Kerwin said “the team is in good hands” for the future.

“Our group has grown so much over the past four years and to see that we’re consistently winning, consistently putting in hard work everyday, day in and day out, it means a lot,” Kerwin said.

Kerwin said the team has held a mentality throughout the season that they will play every game to win, and that desire has fueled their dominant run.

“It’s just going in everyday wanting to win, and a desire to be the best, and that’s what we practice, championship habits in and out of the pool everyday,” Kerwin said. “Hopefully when we go up to championships in New York we’ll win again.”

King said he “really appreciated” the team’s seniors for welcoming and accepting him in his first season last year as they became vocal leaders for the rest of the team.

“They were the ones that were picking up what I was putting down,” King said. “They’ve done such a great job over the last two years of really just maximizing their experience and their opportunities to play and get better and to stabilize this program at the highest possible program it can be.”

The Colonials return to action Saturday night in their final game of the regular season when they face Navy at 8 p.m. in Annapolis, Md.

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