GW Women's Water Polo Set for Season-Opening Princeton Invite This Weekend
Colonials Open with Two Top-10 Teams on Saturday
Feb. 9, 2013
WASHINGTON - The George Washington women's water polo team opens its 2013 campaign this weekend with four games at the two-day Princeton Invitational, including two contests against top-10 opponents.
The Colonials begin the season on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against the host Tigers, who are ranked 10th nationally. It does not get any easier from there, as GW will face off against No. 4 California that evening at 6 p.m. On Sunday, the Colonials will take on Villanova at 10:30 a.m. before concluding the tournament with an exhibition match against New York Aquatic Club at 3 p.m. All games will be played at Princeton's DeNunzio Pool.
GW went 2-1 at the 2012 Princeton Invitational, with wins over Villanova and Brown on the first day of competition.
Princeton opens its season this weekend after posting a 29-6 record in 2012 and winning the College Water Polo Association Eastern Championship to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Cal is already 5-1 on the season, with its lone loss coming against No. 3 UCLA. Villanova opened its season with three straight losses at the Harvard Home Kick-Off on Feb. 2. GW is 28-6 all-time against the Wildcats, including a pair of victories last season.
2013 Women's Water Polo Season Outlook
The George Washington women's water polo team faced adversity from the start in 2012, when it learned that three-time CWPA First-Team All-South honoree Allison Peotter would miss the entire season while rehabbing an injury.
A young Colonials' squad stepped up in Peotter's absence and posted a 12-15 record - its most wins since 2005 - and all but two players are back from that team.
"Last season was a pleasant surprise considering the hurdles that we had to overcome," said 14th-year head coach Scott Reed. "I think the team learned a lot about themselves and came away with a lot of confidence, which has carried over to this year."
A now-healthy Peotter returns for her final season in the Buff and Blue, and is already the owner of GW's all-time records for assists (107), steals (184) and swim-offs won (205). If she picks up at the pace of her first three years, she could set program marks for career goals and points, as well.
"Allison is such a good all-around player," said Coach Reed. "She has a lot of speed, so she's great in the transition game. She is a smart defender, does not get herself ejected very much, and doesn't make very many mistakes in that department. On the offensive end, she sees the pool really well, so she's able to get those passes and get those assists, and when the time calls for it, to put the ball in the net. Everyone is really excited to get her back into the mix for all thing things she is capable of doing, and there is no doubt in my mind that she is just going to fit right in with ease."
A trio of sophomores stepped up in Peotter's absence, as Rachael Bentley, Katherine Berry and Megan Brolley combined for nearly half of GW's program-record 277 goals. Now that they are juniors, Coach Reed believes they will produce at even higher levels in 2013.
An extremely accurate shooter, Bentley set program records with 99 points and 50 assists last season, and her .521 shooting percentage was the third-highest in school history.
"Rachael has probably been our most consistent player year in and year out," said Coach Reed. "She's a very smart individual who knows the game well, does not make mistakes and doesn't get rattled one bit."
Bentley's high school teammate from Riverside, Calif., Berry stepped up on both sides of the pool last season, leading the Colonials in field blocks (12) and steals (45) while ranking second on the team in goals (50) and points (70). Brolley also experienced a breakout year offensively and defensively, ranking second only to Berry with 39 steals while becoming GW's fourth player with at least 40 goals on the season.
"K.B. was able to get more offensive opportunities last year, but she's also a very effective center defender, and we're going to rely on her quite a bit to be an anchor on our defense this year," said Coach Reed. "I think Megan Brolley really identified what her strength is, and that's getting off on the counter-attack. She had a lot of confidence in that department. She's tough-minded, and we are really going to look for her to do that and have her and Allison (Peotter) complement each other on that transition game."
Junior Allison Littlejohn shifted to center last season and contributed 44 points and 40 steals, but she will move back to center defense in 2013.
"She knows that position really well and has a lot of mobility, so she's able to front those centers effectively," Coach Reed said. "We're looking for her to complement Katherine Berry - those two should make a very effective front in front of the cage."
Sophomore Meagan Moreland started right away as a rookie and rewarded her coach's confidence, scoring 22 goals and winning a team-best 16 swim-offs while earning Southern Division Rookie of the Week early in the season. Reed said he is looking for her to build on that success now with a year of experience under her belt.
"We threw her right into it and asked her to start, which is a lot for a freshman, but she became a very steady player, a solid defender and good offensively," Reed said.
Reed will also look to a number of freshmen to make immediate contributions in the pool, including Hannah Cox and Erin Donoghue. Reed believes Cox, a Canadian native with a wealth of international experience, should be able to fill in for First-Team All-South center Megan Walker, who graduated in May, while Donoghue is an All-American who has a knack for the goal.
"We are really looking for Hannah to contribute right away and be able to control that offense," said Coach Reed. "I think she's ready to go with no hesitation whatsoever. Erin is one of the smartest players I've seen in a long time coming in as a freshman. She shoots the ball well, she's a smart defender, she just knows the game and is a good all-around player. She's going to be putting some points on the board for us and getting some good assists as well."
Rookie McKinlee Hand is the only southpaw on the team. She was the Central Florida Player of the Year last season after scoring 75 goals, while classmate Caroline Sandri is a very strong center who recorded 145 points as a high school senior in Central California. Reed sees good things from the duo once they gain some experience at the collegiate level.
Senior Jessie Hurd is a very creative driver who knows how to draw ejections. Reed will look to her experience to earn the Colonials some power play opportunities. Junior Erin Dickson has been injured much of her career, but Coach Reed hopes to keep her healthy this season in order to be able to utilize her speed in the transition game. Sophomore Mikaela Pyrch is learning a new position at center after scoring 12 points in 17 games last season.
Sophomore Chandler Vilander is the incumbent in the goal after playing all but 10 quarters as a rookie, but she will be pushed by freshman Caterina Sesana, an All-American from a strong program in South Florida.
"Starting right away as a freshman, Chandler had to learn to adjust to the college game on the fly," said Coach Reed. "It was tough for her, but she looked like she had a little more confidence each game. This year she has clearly learned from those experiences and is not making the same mistakes. Caterina is smart and has a lot of good instincts in the goal, and she definitely has a lot of confidence out there."
Sophomore Jessie Sinkula saw action in a handful of games last season and will provide more depth in the cage.
Reed put together a tough schedule to prepare his team for both the Southern Division and Eastern Championships, where his team finished fifth and ninth, respectively, in 2012.
"There's really not an easy game on our schedule," he said. "We are going to train hard, and I know we can succeed as long as we keep progressing the way we have."