2015 GW Men's Water Polo Season Outlook
Colonials Set for Fresh Start Under First-Year Head Coach Adam Foley
Sept. 4, 2015
With a new head coach and the addition of eight talented freshmen, the George Washington men's water polo team will have a new look in 2015.
First-year head coach Adam Foley, who was promoted in the spring after serving as assistant coach last season, and new assistant coach David Carson have spent the preseason trying to change the culture of the program into one that strives for championships.
"Our goals for the season are to instill a new culture of competition and championship habits," said Coach Foley. "Those are our focuses. Whether we're in first place or last place in our conference, if we haven't done those things and changed the culture and practiced championship habits then we haven't achieved our goals for the year."
Coach Foley has been pleased with what he has seen from his team in terms of energy level in the preseason and buying into his vision.
"The practice environment that we've been able to maintain this preseason, in my opinion, is completely different than anything I've ever experienced, both as a head coach and as an assistant coach," he said. "The energy is unparalleled right now. They're all very excited and supportive. They've all understood what we're trying to achieve and they're pushing each other on a daily basis."
Eight freshmen join a roster that also includes six returning sophomores among 20 total players. Coach Foley said he is excited about the vitality that his young team will bring but also knows it won't come without its growing pains.
"We're going to have youth on our side, but that means on the flip side, our weakness will be our youth and inexperience," he said. "I'm excited about what we can do this year. I'm excited about building a nice foundation that will leave a legacy with this program."
The freshman class in particular brings a lot of versatility with three utility players and a goalkeeper-turned-center defender.
"We have some good utility players that can do a little bit of everything and play both sides of the pool," said Coach Foley. "We have a lot of pieces that can do different things. Versatility is going to be huge for us in general this year, but in that class versatility is very important as we start to figure out who we are and what roles people can contribute in."
The starting lineup will look quite different from the 2014 version, as the Colonials will be without their three leading scorers from a year ago. Brian Mojica, the program's all-time leader in assists, and Ridvan Pehlivan both graduated; the duo combined for 115 goals and 68 assists last season. In addition, three-time honorable mention All-American Bogdan Petkovic will redshirt this season.
Coach Foley believes he has a number of players capable of making up for the lost offensive production. Sophomore Pierce Deamer was impressive during his rookie campaign, ranking fourth on the team in scoring (48 goals, 13 assists) and leading the Colonials with 65 ejections drawn. Senior Jonah Dowd has played nearly every game during his first three seasons, totaling 48 goals and 45 assists in his career, and will look to end his career on a high note. Freshman James McLean out of New Zealand should step into the starting center position vacated by Pehlivan.
Coach Foley expects sophomore Duke Becker to get more playing time this year after scoring 19 goals in his inaugural season, and he said Noah McKinnie Braun is a sleeper in the sophomore class after seeing limited action in 2014.
"I think a sophomore to keep an eye on would be Noah Braun," the coach said. "Noah put in all the work in the offseason, did everything (strength and conditioning coach) Matt Johnson asked of him in the weight room, he put on a lot of strength, he worked on his perimeter shot, and became a better team defender. I expect that he will play a lot more minutes this year."
While Petkovic led GW in scoring last season, Coach Foley said his absence will be felt more on the defensive end of the pool, where the center defender was a force, setting the program record for career field blocks in just three seasons and ranking second all-time in steals.
"Bogdan was such a cornerstone to the defense that in some ways it allowed other people to not focus because he's such a great defender that he cleans up other people's mistakes," said Coach Foley. "We've spent a lot of time this preseason focusing on team defense. I think in a way his absence will force us all to be better team defenders. We're not going to be able to replace someone like Bogdan with one person, so we have to focus on the team concept of defense."
In doing so, the Colonials will rely on their versatility as a number of players take on new positions.
"Everyone is going to be in a new role this year, everyone gets the opportunity to change who they were," said Coach Foley. "We're going to have a lot of people playing minutes in different areas than they ever have before."
Sophomore Quentin Montgomery, who appeared in 26 games last season as Pehlivan's backup at center, will shift to center defense this year. At 6-foot-4, Montgomery is long and strong. Freshman Austin Pyrch, a goalkeeper by trade, will also see time at center defense.
"He's a great athlete," Coach Foley said of the 6-foot-4 Pyrch, who is also a member of GW's swimming and diving team. "He's got the skill set -- he's really fast, really long, very strong. It's just getting the game reps in there. I believe he could be a fantastic center defender, but he's just got to get the experience."
For the first time since 2009, GW's roster includes more than two goalkeepers, and Coach Foley said it will be an open competition for the starting job. Senior Connor Dillon is a two-year starter who posted a career-best .488 save percentage in 2014 while nearing 200 saves for the second year in a row. Junior Sander Profaci saw increased playing time last season, recording a 9.62 goals-against average and .507 save percentage in 42 quarters. Both will be pushed by freshman Matt Taylor, another New Zealand product who has impressed during preseason, and Coach Foley expects Pyrch to see some time in the cage at some point during the season as well.
The Colonials open their season this weekend at the Bruno Classic hosted by Brown University. The CWPA Southern Division Championship will take place from Nov. 6-8 at Bucknell University, and the CWPA Championship, with a berth in the NCAA Tournament at stake, will be held Nov. 20-22 at MIT.
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