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Men’s water polo wraps up successful season with third-place finish in NWPC Tournament

Bears defeat Long Island University, Iona but fall to Harvard in semifinals

<p>Bruno finished third in the conference and ended the season with their best winning percentage since 2016.</p><p>Courtesy of Emma C. Marion/Brown Athletics</p>

Bruno finished third in the conference and ended the season with their best winning percentage since 2016.

Courtesy of Emma C. Marion/Brown Athletics

Brown men’s water polo (21-8, 6-4 Northeast Water Polo Conference) concluded an outstanding season with wins over Long Island University (8-23, 3-9) and Iona University (12-18, 4-8) and a loss to Harvard (25-4, 9-1) at the NWPC Tournament last weekend. The Bears took down LIU in the first round of the tournament before losing to Harvard in the semifinals and beating Iona in the third-place game. 

Brown came up just short in all three of their games against the Crimson this season, losing by no more than four goals in each matchup.

“Outside of the second half against Harvard, I felt we played well. I’m disappointed we weren’t able to get to the championship game, but I’m proud of these guys,” Head Coach Felix Mercado wrote in an email to The Herald via Brown Athletics. “This is a very young team, whose future is very bright. We have to get better though to make sure we are meeting our own expectations.”

Bruno cruised to an opening-round victory over LIU Friday afternoon. The Bears came out of the gate hot, roaring out to a 10-1 lead over the Sharks. After Long Island responded with five straight goals, Brown scored the next seven goals, eventually winning 19-8. Bruno’s offense was powered by a pair of hat tricks from Ilias Stothart ’26 and Nick Berry ’23.5.

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Brown continued its strong play this weekend in the first half against Harvard. Through the exploits of Jaxson Tierney ’27, who registered a first-half hat trick, the Bears went into the break knotted at five with the Crimson. After outsourcing Brown 5-3 in the third quarter, two quick goals from Harvard at the start of the fourth put the game to bed. Despite a valiant late effort, Bruno fell 14-10 to the Crimson. 

“I think what made Harvard a tricky opponent this year was the experience of their team,” Joe Gallagher ’24 wrote in a message to The Herald via Brown Athletics. “Most of their starters were seniors or fifth-years, while the majority of our team was underclassmen. In both of our last two games against the Crimson, they’ve bested us in the second half of the game, where experienced decision-making matters the most.”

On Sunday, Brown looked to rebound and finish strong in the tournament third-place game against Iona. Spurred on by Stothart’s two goals, Brown swam out to a 7-4 lead through the first quarter. Outscoring the Gaels 5-1 in the second, with two goals apiece from Máté Tymcyna ’27 and Mac Berry ’27, the Bears took a commanding 12-5 lead into the half. Evan Moore ’24 capped off the evening with a fourth-quarter hat trick and Gallagher added eight saves in goal to lead Brown to a 20-11 rout. 

“After playing a team like Harvard at their home pool, our defense was ready for whatever came their way,” Gallagher wrote. “I’m really proud that everyone showed up against Iona and we were able to solidify our third-place finish.”

This weekend’s NWPC Tournament marked the final set of games for Bruno’s senior class.

“There’s no question that our program wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn't for the senior class. Nick Berry, Filip Aleksic ’24, Thomas Hoffmeister ’24, Moore, Mike Winther ’24 and Gallagher made a big impact on this team,” Mercado wrote. “I know how much they have contributed to our foundation to where we are set up for greatness moving forward. We are very sad to see them go and we're lucky to have had them in our program.”

“Playing for Brown Water Polo has been a phenomenal experience. It has provided me with lifelong friendships and opportunities that I never would have had otherwise,” Gallagher wrote. “What made this year special was the squad of young guys that came in and the energy that our coaches … brought to the program. While it’s sad to be leaving, it’s good to know that the program is left in a good place to be successful.”

In addition to leadership from seniors on the team, Bruno also benefited from an influx of young talent this season.

“Looking back at the season, I feel that we learned a lot about what it takes to be a champion. We definitely are not good enough to cut corners and have to make sure that we limit the mistakes that we were making throughout the season,” Mercado wrote. “Because we are so young, I do feel good about this program and the direction that we’re heading.”

The weekend concluded a successful season for the program, which included a thrilling eight-game winning streak in the middle of October. Overall, the Bears finished with their highest winning percentage since 2016. 

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“We want to win a championship. I think the days of us just competing isn’t good enough. We have to win a championship to truly solidify how good this program is,” Mercado wrote. “I believe in our guys and I believe that they know what they need to do. I know the guys are looking forward to getting back to work after Thanksgiving.”

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