Water polo defeats MIT for D-III Championship

By ESTHER HONG | October 19, 2017


HOPKINSSPORTS.COM Junior attacker Ryan Masi scored the final goal of the Championship game.

After competing in the Harvard Invitational last Friday, the Hopkins water polo team traveled straight to Cambridge, Mass. on Saturday for the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division III Eastern Championship at MIT.

Facing both the Washington & Jefferson College Presidents and the Connecticut College Camels in pool play, the Blue Jays cruised through both victories with the scores of 13-3 and 15-8, respectively.

Next, the Jays advanced to the CWPA Division III Eastern championship game, taking on host team, the MIT Engineers, in a thrilling 11-10 victory.

Junior utility player Giorgio Cico discussed the weekend, emphasizing the Jays’ brutal schedule.

“All things considered, the best part of the weekend was seeing the team overcome the exhaustion and not make excuses or give up when we were tired against some very good teams,” he said.

Initially facing off against the Presidents, Hopkins was hot from the start, entering the pool with a five-goal run in the first six minutes of play. Freshman utility player Oscar Goodell scored two of the first five goals for the Jays. Meanwhile, the defense held the Presidents scoreless until the second quarter.

When the Presidents did find the net, the Blue Jays did not resort to complacency. They responded to the Presidents with yet another five-goal run, each goal made by a different player. With five minutes left in the third quarter, Hopkins led by an impressive score of 10-1.

A few minutes later, the Presidents earned their second goal of the game with three minutes left in the third.

At the top of the fourth quarter, the Blue Jays’ offensive authority continued. Freshman attacker John Murphy, freshman driver Stephen Schmidt and senior utility player Jono Gillette scored within the first two minutes of the quarter.

With a little over five minutes remaining in the game, the Presidents made one last ditch effort to stay competitive against the Jays. Washington & Lee driver Ian Geister tallied a goal for the team, but it was already too late for a comeback. The final score was 13-3 in favor of the Jays.

The Blue Jays quickly returned to the pool for their next game against the Connecticut Camels. For the first eight minutes of play, the teams exchanged goals, with Hopkins taking the 4-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. Two of the four first-quarter goals were back-to-back goals from freshman driver Nico Ivanov. Ivanov’s efforts throughout the tournament were not lost on his teammates.

“Nico [Ivanov] carried us,” Cico said. “As a freshman with five goals and a ton of fantastic plays, we couldn’t have won the Championship without his efforts.”

Ivanov continued to give the Jays momentum beyond the first quarter, completing his hat trick just 39 seconds into the second.

Gillette and junior attacker Ryan Masi each followed up with a goal of their own, giving the Jays a four-goal lead at the end of the half. While the Camels started off the second half with a single goal, the Jays answered with three straight from Ivanov, Cico and Gillette.

Hopkins sought a strong finish in the fourth quarter as senior driver Connor Johnson, Murphy and Schmidt all contributed goals at the beginning of the fourth.

A tinge of hope came for the Camels when sophomore Arturo Freitas responded to the Jays’ run with three straight goals of his own to put the Camels’ deficit at six. Unfortunately for the Camels, their hope for a late-game comeback ended quickly as freshman driver Olin Shipstead and Schmidt responded with goals to improve the Jays’ lead to eight.

After grabbing wins against both the Presidents and the Camels, the Hopkins program remains undefeated against both teams and holds records of 17-0 and 13-0 against the Presidents and the Camels, respectively.

After a night of recovery, the Blue Jays carried on to the CWPA Division III Championship game against the top-seeded host team, the MIT Engineers.

The Engineers proved themselves worthy opponents from the start, making three consecutive goals early in the first quarter to start off the match. Hopkins struck back with a goal of their own, as Murphy found the back of the net with a little over a minute left in the first.

Some late first-quarter scoring ensured it would be a competitive and exciting matchup. The Engineers made a late first-quarter goal, improving their lead to 4-1 with 15 seconds left in the first, but despite the Engineers’ impressive late first-quarter goal, it was the Blue Jays who had the final say in the first. Ivanov scored with just two seconds left in the quarter, cutting the Engineers’ lead by one.

Ivanov scored again to open the second, bringing the Jays’ deficit to one. Although the Engineers responded with a goal of their own, sophomore Finn Banks and Murphy took no chances, scoring back-to-back goals for the Blue Jays in just 29 seconds and tying the score at five, which remained tied for the next five minutes of play.

Banks ended the stalemate with a man-up goal to give Hopkins their first lead in the game, while Ivanov continued to improve the Jays’ lead, completing his hat trick with yet another goal.

After the Engineers came back with four consecutive goals, Ivanov responded for the Jays with a pair of goals.

It was ultimately the Engineers who took the lead at the end of the third quarter with a goal from attacker Luka Knezevic.

The Jays went up 11-10 in the final quarter with consecutive goals from Cico and Masi.

In an exciting late-game penalty shot for MIT, the Engineers’ attacker Evan Kim had the opportunity to send the game to overtime. However, with only 13 seconds left in the game, senior goalie John Wilson grabbed the save, solidifying the match for Hopkins.

With just 13 seconds left on the clock, the Engineers could not battle back in time.

“We’ve made a strong case as the best D-III team in the country, and furthermore, we play in a conference where we are the only D-III team,” Cico said. “So for us, our goals are set on making it to the national D-I Final Four.”

With 17 titles, Hopkins holds the record for most CWPA Division III Eastern titles in the history of the Championship.

“This weekend went very well, but this is just one small checkmark for our season,” Cico said. “Our most important goals are still ahead of us, and we have a long way to go before we’re ready to accomplish them.”

The Blue Jays continue their Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference play this Friday, traveling to Washington, D.C. to take on the George Washington Colonials. The game starts at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the Charles E. Smith Center.

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