Sports

Men’s water polo wins opening game

Coach says defensive strategy landed first game against Wagner College

By
Staff Writer
Monday, September 9, 2019

The Bears’ tenacious mentality and strategy contributed to their critical 13-10 win against Wagner College Saturday. Brown proceeded to win five out of its six games in the Bruno Classic over the weekend. The team will return to the pool in the Princeton Invitational this Saturday.

The men’s water polo team opened its home slate with a 13-10 double overtime victory against Wagner College Saturday.

The win was the first of five total at the Bruno Classic, which took place over the weekend. Brown established a solid lead in the first period against Wagner, but the Seahawks surpassed Bruno’s strong opening and clinched an advantage, which lasted until the Bears tied the score in the final ten seconds of regulation play.

During the first period, attacker James Thygesen ’20 scored in under 45 seconds of play. Relentless in their give-and-go, the Seahawks sunk their first shot 3:52 into the quarter. After a physical minute of turnovers, attacker Leo Berkman ’23 grabbed a 2-1 lead for Brown, his first collegiate score. The Bears glided past Wagner’s defense several more times in the stanza, but were unable to find the inside of the net. The final 30 seconds of the period featured the heroics of goalkeeper Ugo Piovan ’22, who blocked three shots from three different angles to preserve Bruno’s 3-1 lead.

The Bears were faced with a newly combative Wagner defense in the second period. The Seahawks’ physicality did not always work in their favor, as they committed multiple penalties allowing center Matt Simko ’22 to score Brown’s first point of the period. Simko scored the team’s only other goal of the quarter, taking advantage of a whistle on Wagner to launch into action and score before the Seahawks realized the ball was back in play. Wagner responded with four points to enter halftime tied at five. 

The Seahawks maintained their momentum in the third period, putting Piovan to the test with four attempted shots in the first three minutes. Brown’s offense weaved toward the Seahawks’ cage, but an offensive fumble turned possession to Wagner, who scored on a severe angle at 3:32 in the quarter to bring the score to 6-5. 

“(The Seahawks) really worked for the center. They did a great job on passing, they finished their plays,” Piovan said.

Wagner’s offense scored again, but the Bears’ defense began to tighten up. Wagner managed to fire off a high and precise shot, but Piovan absorbed the hit. Attacker Armen Deirmenjian ’20 and Thygesen leaned into the momentum shift, netting a point apiece to tie the score at 7-7.

The fourth quarter got off to a slower start as the teams grew more familiar with one another’s tactics. Wagner scored just once in the first half of the stanza, with Berkman scooping up a goal 4:24 minutes into the period to equalize the game at eight. With eleven seconds left in the period, the Seahawks skipped one past Piovan to take a 9-8 lead. But the Bears continued to play as though the game had only just begun. Thygesen rocketed the ball to center Hudson Rawlings ’20, who slammed it into the Seahawks’ cage with three seconds remaining.

“I was frustrated, because I felt we left a lot of opportunities in the water,” said Head Coach Felix Mercado. “(But) it was great to see the resilience of not quitting.” 

The three minute overtime period featured rapid-fire passing and several intercepted turnovers. In a series that was evocative of pinball, Cole Atwell ’23 broke the tie with only six seconds remaining on the shot clock. His tally put the Bears in the lead at 10-9.

“We were hyping each other up and encouraging each other to keep going,” Atwell said. “We didn’t let our guys sink into a depressed mode.”

With 33 seconds remaining in the stanza, Wagner exploited weaknesses in Brown’s offense to take possession and score, tying the game again at 10. Thygesen attempted a powerful shot with one second remaining but lost the angle when he was crowded by Wagner’s defense.

Thygesen picked up right where he left off entering the second overtime, winning the swim off and storming the Seahawks. Backed by a unified Bruno defense, Thygesen scored twice in 31 seconds, including a successful five-meter penalty shot. At one minute and four seconds remaining in the period, Simko solidified the lead with a steely corner shot to earn a three-goal lead for Bruno.

Brown’s defense pulled together to deny the Seahawks any further scoring opportunities, including a frantic attempt to score in the final ten seconds of the period. Piovan dove from the right side to intercept a tight left corner shot from the five-meter mark and dubbed the save the most critical of the match. “That was a crucial shot, because if Wagner had made it, they could have gotten their psychology back,” he said.

The Bears went on to win five of their six games of the Bruno Classic, earning four consecutive victories on Saturday. Brown will face Wagner College again as its first opponent in the Princeton Invitational this weekend.

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