GW Men's Water Polo 2014 Season Outlook

Senior Matthew Williams

   

Sept. 4, 2014

The George Washington men's water polo team experienced a breakout year in 2013 in which it was ranked in the top 20 nationally for two weeks, appearing in the poll for the first time since 2008. The Colonials finished with their first winning campaign (16-15) in seven years and their most wins since 1998.

The offense starts with senior co-captain Brian Mojica who owns three of the top four single-season assists totals in program history and ranks second all-time at GW with 147 career helpers, but 16th-year Head Coach Scott Reed will look to him to score a few more goals in his final go-round, as well as to continue to contribute on defense, where he ranks third in career blocks.

"Brian's the setup man - he's the guy that the offense runs through," Reed said. "He's the one that creates the good passing opportunities, the good shooting opportunities for everybody else. He has an ability to play some fantastic defense - he's probably our second-best overall defender; I don't think people realize that. He just doesn't make a lot of mistakes and my hope is that our freshmen will feed off that."

Senior Ridvan Pehlivan has scored at least 40 goals from the center position in each of his first three seasons at GW, including a career-high 55 a year ago, and while he will still play center in 2014, Coach Reed expects him to also float into the perimeter to utilize his effective outside shot.

"Because of the type of shooter that he is and being able to have to lefties out there at the same time (Mojica and Pehlivan) that are capable of putting points on the board, definitely makes us a more potent offense," he said. "This is probably the most balanced team we've had in a long time in terms of left-handed players."

Coach Reed also expects junior Jonah Dowd to contribute more on offense this season after scoring 23 goals and ranking third on the team with 31 steals last year.

"We're going to look to Jonah to get that counterattack game going, because he's got the speed to do that," the coach said.

In addition, a couple of freshmen in Pierce Deamer and Duke Becker should have an immediate impact in their rookie campaigns. Both from Southern California, Deamer was an All-American in 2013 while Becker earned honorable mention.

"Pierce is one of the most complete players I have ever seen," Coach Reed said. "He's strong, he's fast, he doesn't back down from any type of situation and he has a cannon of a shot. He's a very confident, well-rounded player. Duke is a creative shooter. He knows how to really place that ball in the right locations and does some really tricky stuff out there. It's just going to be a completely different look, and hopefully between Pierce and Duke those two will really balance each other out."

When Pehlivan moves outside, Coach Reed will turn to another freshman, 6-foot-4 Quentin Montgomery, to run the offense from the center position.

"Quentin is raw and doesn't have the experience that Rudy has, but I think with his size and speed he'll be able to control the center position. We're not looking for Quentin to do a lot of scoring but just control the offense."

Junior Alec Sedlachek and freshman Ryan Michalko could see time at the center position, as well. Sedlachek had a good spring and Coach Reed will look for him to contribute in 2014 after two years of learning behind Pehlivan.

Senior Matthew Williams should also play a larger role in his final campaign in the Buff and Blue, as the Jamaica native has a good outside shot and can also contribute on defense.

"We are depending on him, when the shot presents itself, that he's going to be able to step up and fire that ball," said Coach Reed. "His defense has been absolutely fantastic and improving every year, so we're looking for him to continue moving forward in that area."

Seniors Adam Wrobel and Rafi Castillo, another southpaw, are team leaders who can contribute on both ends of the pool.

"Adam Wrobel does a little bit of everything," Coach Reed said of the two-time team captain. "We're looking for him to be a very consistent defender and take advantage of his quick-release shots."

Sophomores Dennis Gut and Alex Swart and freshman Noah McKinnie Braun, a San Diego native who was named his league's MVP, will add depth to the Colonials' attacking unit.

While the Colonials should be able to maintain their potent offense, Coach Reed wants to see an improved defense this season.

"We're trying to rely on our defense a little bit more; that's been the focus of this preseason," he said. "I do think we're going to be able to put the same amount of points on the board, but what we really need to do is be more consistent on defense. I think the biggest problem we had last year was our inability to finish a defensive series, so we're really focusing on that."

Leading the way will be two-time honorable mention All-American Bogdan Petkovic, who enters his junior season ranking among GW's all-time top-five leaders in both steals and blocks. The 6-foot-4 center defender is the first Colonial ever to earn All-America recognition twice. Petkovic shattered the Colonials' single-season steals record as a freshman, then broke the single-season blocks mark in 2013, but he's a key contributor on offense as well, ranking second on the team with 88 points (53 goals, 35 assists) last season.

"We're looking for Bogdan to do the same things he's done in the past," said Coach Reed, adding that the team will rely on Petkovic even more this season.

Coach Reed said there will be "a mix of guys" backing up Petkovic, including Deamer, Mojica, Montgomery and freshman Joe Behun.

Both of last season's goalkeepers - junior Connor Dillon and sophomore Sander Profaci - return in 2014. While Dillon saw the bulk of the action a year ago, Coach Reed said the duo will split playing time at least for the start of the season to keep the competition going.

The Colonials open their season this weekend at the Princeton Invitational, where they will face opponents from the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Northern Division, including two-time defending CWPA champion St. Francis, as well as MIT, Iona and Brown.

The CWPA Championship takes on a new format again this year, as the top five teams from the Southern Division Championship, along with the top three teams from the Northern Division Championship, earn automatic berths, while the remaining four slots are selected by the league's Varsity Governance Council based on the cumulative results of regular-season and championship play between the teams. The Southern Division Championship is slated for Nov. 7-9 in Princeton, N.J., while the CWPA Championship will take place from Nov. 21-23 in Annapolis, Md.

"We have a lot more depth this year than we did last year," said Coach Reed. "We have a bunch of freshmen who will be able to contribute right away and we have returning players who didn't get as much playing time last year but are ready to move into a bigger role. By utilizing our depth early on, I think we're going to be able to be a less-tired team as the season progresses."

 

 

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