Men’s water polo is returning to the pool looking to hit its stride after an unpredictable season last year.
After a year and a half away from the water, the Colonials (1-5) have fallen into a losing streak the past five non-conference games. The team has averaged a 37.7 shooting percentage, finishing 64 of their 170 attempts at the goal, but the Colonials have allowed 88 goals this season as they struggle to maintain a consistent defense.
“I think they’re just focusing on the inherent joy of actually getting to do water polo again,” head coach Barry King said. “The rhythm part is going to come with a few more contests and there’s a lot of new faces that are being relied on to take some pretty significant minutes, so we’re all trying to figure out how to play with each other, and how we can make each other better.
King said the team has generated opportunities in front of the net but is looking to become more efficient to capitalize on their scoring chances. He said players have focused on improving their defense by exposing the players to different in-game scenarios to help them remember their assignments.
King said the team is behind “result-wise,” but said he looks at the non-conference slate as a time to improve before the MAWPC schedule.
Last year the team stumbled to its first losing record since 2015, as the squad only got to play in just four of its 10 scheduled regular season matchups. The Colonials then fell short in the MAWPC semifinal against La Salle, suffering a 6–4 loss and breaking their four-year streak of appearing in the MAWPC final. The Colonials finished second in 2016 and 2019, and won the MAWPC title in 2017 and 2018.
This year the team welcomes six new players to the roster including freshman center Leo Leudemann, freshman attacker Bruno Rebessi, freshman utility players Andrija Sekulic and Logan Kalish, and sophomore utility player Michael Fearon.
“A couple of them who maybe didn’t quite have the same level of expectation placed on them have slid in quite well and are moving upwards,” King said. “They’re finding that rhythm a lot sooner than some people who are struggling against the weight of expectations right now.”
One of those veterans, graduate student utility player Andras Levai, holds a team high of 16 goals and 23 points this season. He was named MAWPC Player of the Week Tuesday, after notching 10 goals and six steals at the Princeton invitational. He said he hopes to reach the NCAA championship again after reaching it in 2018.
“The start of the season for us has been pretty rough and mostly due to our lack of experience,” Levai said. “But hopefully we can, after a couple more weeks, a couple more weekends, we can start going back to our winning ways like we did two or three years ago.”
Levai was an ACWPC Honorable Mention All-American and All-MAWPC Championship First Team member back in 2019 after leading the Colonials across four categories, racking up 88 goals, 62 assists, 150 points, and 42 steals.
“I told all of them that I did not want to do that again,” Levai said. “I don’t want to be the person that’s far above everyone scoring 80 goals and the next person behind me with 40 goals. I want everyone to chip in and don’t be afraid to shoot. I don’t want to be the one who scores all the goals. I don’t think that’s as fun.”
Despite the shaky start, Levai said it’s a “great feeling” to have a normally structured season again. He said last year the team struggled with a lack of roster depth and having to stay in shape throughout the season with all the canceled games.
Senior utility player DJ Davis, who leads the team in assists with 6, said he was happy to get “one last hurrah” this season and plans to take “full advantage” of the opportunity after everything was “up in the air” last year.
“I’m taking it a lot more seriously now,” Davis said. “We’ve been through some crazy stuff as athletes. And now it’s our last year, we can really appreciate what we have left and appreciate what the sport has done for us.”
Davis said the offense will improve as the defense improves as they help each other “hand in hand.” He said the preseason is an opportunity for the team to “flush out the mistakes” and enhance their game sense and physical endurance so they’re ready to win come time for the MAWPC Championship at the end of November.
“We’ve been there before we know what it takes, we know how much we have to grind, in practice, and even in school as well,” Davis said. “It’s just the whole mentality has to change for you to get to where you want to be perfect.”
The Colonials hit the road Saturday with a double header against Harvard and Brown beginning at 9 a.m., in their final tune-up before the start of MAWPC play.