Friday, December 8, 2023

The No. 19 men’s water polo swept the California road trip

The hot streak of the brown men’s water polo (15-4, 3-2 NWPC) was temporarily stopped against No. 6 Princeton (21-4, 5-0 NWPC) and No. 18 Harvard (18-3, 4-1 NWPC) on October 1 and 8, as the Bears dropped two straight games. But since then, the Bears have bounced back, winning eight straight non-conference games as they prepare to try and avenge their earlier conference losses against Ivy foes.

This weekend, the team traveled to California for a three-game road trip to the Julian Fraser Memorial Tournament. Bruno got off to a strong start against the United States Air Force Academy (16-10, 1-0 WCC) on Saturday, leading 10-5 at the half and eventually winning 14-11. Brown continued their good play with a 12-9 win over California State University at Fullerton (16-12, 0-3 Big West) on Saturday and followed it up with an 18-15 win over Santa Clara University (10-11, 0). -2 WCC) on Sunday.

The key to Bruno’s recent success is center Ilias Stothart, ’26, who scored 11 goals in weekend games. In the fifth game of the Bears’ recent eight-game winning streak on Oct. 15 at home against Occidental College (9-14, 3-2 SCIAC), Stothart turned in an outstanding performance, scoring 10 points and goals to break the program record of nine previously held by Kent Rapp ’80 and Steve Ennis ’86. Stothart started strong against Occidental with six goals in the first two quarters and added four more late in the season to lead Brown to a 20-14 victory.

“A teammate’s observation that the Occidental goalie was weak above his head, paired with several passes from my teammates and some quick shooting, allowed me to get up to ten,” he wrote. Stothart said this in a message to The Herald. Achieving the program record is “something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he added.

“Ilias is one of the best centers in the country and may be the best pure center in our conference. Teams are trying to double and sometimes triple team him,” Head Coach Felix Mercado wrote in a message to The Herald via Brown Athletics. “The most impressive thing about the last two weeks is that the team has gotten better at getting him the ball in good positions to score. His presence also opens up a lot of great looks for our outside shooters.

“It was really fun to watch and be a part of,” wrote Jaxson Tierney ’27, who recorded a season-best six-goal performance against Santa Clara this weekend, in an email to The Herald via Brown Athletics. “Having one of your teammates do really well in a game and feeding off their energy is a fun experience when someone plays well, especially in our game against Occidental.”

For their outstanding individual efforts during Brown’s 4-0 weekend on Oct. 14–15, Stothart and Tierney—former high school teammates at Harvard Westlake—were named NWPC Player and Rookie of the Week, respectively. With 70 and 45 total goals, respectively, Stothart and Tierney are the Bears’ top scorers this season. Gabe Chang ’25 has the third most with 44.

“This is my first time getting player of the week, and I’m especially proud of it because Jaxson was named Rookie of the Week at the same time,” Stothart wrote. “It feels good to show our conference that Brown Water Polo is not working.”

Brown’s first-year contingent has made outstanding contributions to the team throughout its recent winning streak.

“Our early years are a big part of our progress this season,” Mercado wrote. Tierney, Máté Tymcyna ’27, Mac Berry ’27, and Goran Narancic ’27 “had to pick up a lot of slack as we battled through injuries to the team. While this is their first year playing NCAA water polo, the four have successfully represented their countries in different age groups. Their impact on the defensive and offensive ends allowed us to compete.

“We’ve seen a change in mentality throughout the year, and a lot of it has to do with our freshmen,” Stothart wrote. “Their talent and enthusiasm threatened to kick everyone from the start, sparking a competition we didn’t have last year.”

“With such a young team and some players at the start of the pre-season who did not know the specific tactics and style of play we play, we learned to play (the rest of the team) quickly, so that is not an obstacle that we have encountered this season,” Tienrey wrote.

Sitting at 15-4, Bruno is close to matching its win total from last year’s 16-16 record.

A big part of the positive environment surrounding the team comes from the “chemistry outside the pool,” Tierney wrote. He also cited communication as a part of the team’s success.

“The key to our recent momentum has been more communication and becoming more comfortable playing with each other,” Tierney wrote.

“The key is our unity building and our improved attention to detail,” Mercado wrote.

Brown will look to continue their hot streak with five conference games on their schedule, starting against Princeton at home in Providence on October 28.

“Going into the next two weekends of games and keeping it going will be important, especially against teams like Harvard and Princeton, where teamwork and communication will be important if we want to be successful,” Tierney wrote.

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“We have a big mountain to climb with how good Princeton and Harvard are, as well as very good teams in Iona, MIT, and LIU who all want to win and get into the championship game,” Mercado wrote. “Regardless of how this season ends, I know we’re building the right way and not skipping steps. This is a fun team to coach and watch grow.”

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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