Few students from the East Coast have ever seen a water polo match, much less played the sport themselves. However, to the surprise of many such students, the Johns Hopkins Water Polo team not only contends with Division I and Division III teams, but frequently emerges victorious.
This season, the team's success is due in large part to the contributions of Ryan Ford, a junior and co-captain.
Ryan started playing polo when he was 12 years old. He grew up swimming, but made the switch to water polo when his friends started to play. When he became good enough to play year-round, he dropped swimming completely and has never looked back.
Ryan, a San Jose, Ca. native, chose to attend Johns Hopkins for a variety of reasons. After spending 18 years in California, Ryan wanted to experience the East Coast. His parents urged him to attend a private university, and because Hopkins is in a large city and has a water polo team, it seemed like a natural choice.
Ryan has made significant contributions to the team since he matriculated at Johns Hopkins. Playing the position of strong driver, Ryan was a Division III First Team All-American his freshman year.
That year, the team earned its first bid in history to the Eastern Championships. His skillful play and leadership have continued to be an important component of the team's success. Last year, the team earned its second bid to the Eastern Championships, a feat that is unprecedented by any other Division III team.
This year, due to the coach's absences, Ryan and co-captain Paul Ramaley have had to "step up and play the dual roles as both player and coach."
Fred Kingston, a teammate and roommate of Ryan's, credits Ryan with much of the team's success, saying "Ryan's positive attitude pulls us through tough situations in important games. He is not afraid to shoot from anywhere in the pool, and he will frequently surprise a goalie by putting a shot in the upper corner of the goal."
The team's 3-10 record does not reflect the competitiveness of their games. Four games were lost by one goal, and they have played against only one Division III opponent. The majority of their matches have been against Division I schools that are ranked in the top 20 nationally.
While the water polo team's schedule has been more difficult than in the past, Ryan remains positive about the outlook for the season. He says that the team's record is "not where we want it to be," but that they look like a strong candidate to win the Division III title. He says that they are "almost assured a third trip to the Eastern Championships." Their main goal is to be ranked in the top 20, and their victory last weekend over Harvard University should help them achieve that goal.
Ryan believes that the rest of the season is a "mental game" and that if the team believes they can do it, then they will be able to achieve their goals.
Ryan also sites the freshman as being an important asset to the team, with two of them, Brian Mead and Mac Sanford, starting in most games. The team faces its next opponents at home this weekend, playing George Washington University on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Navy on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
In addition to Ryan's contributions to the water polo team, he has several interests outside of the sport. He is a double major in economics and political science with a GPA over 3.0.
When Ryan graduates, he hopes to work on Wall Street in investment banking, and eventually return to California to start his own business.
Not only is Ryan entrepreneurial, he is also an entertainer. He enjoys college life as much as any of us, citing the parties at his E. 33rd residence "where all are welcome!" as one of his favorite experiences at Hopkins.
Ryan Ford has brought both his skill and leadership to the Johns Hopkins water polo team. With his direction, the team looks to continued success in the remaining season.