Selected Quotes: 2018 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Championship at Fordham

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A Battle Royale at Fordham yields great results. Photo Courtesy: Gloria Kushel

THE BRONX, NY. From Friday afternoon matches—played a day after a sudden snowstorm snarled traffic in the New York metropolitan region—to an early Saturday morning age group clinic led by three-time Olympian Wolf Wigo, to a plethora of high-level contests, including semifinal matches Saturday between Wagner and George Washington and Bucknell and the host Rams, to Sunday’s thrilling MAWPC title match, where the second-seed Colonials tied the match with no time remaining before seizing a 12-11 overtime decision from the top-seeded Bison—last weekend’s 2018 Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference Championship was a tremendous success.

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An unexpected star of this year’s MAWPC tournament was the venue. Fordham’s Colonel Francis B. Messmore Aquatic Center is one of New York City’s finest aquatic facilities, and to see it packed with polo fans was an encouraging sign of the great potential the nation’s largest city holds for the sport.

Swimming World was on site all weekend, and spoke with select participants as well as invested spectators regarding their tournament experience as well as their assessment of local polo.

Bill Harris, Head Coach, Fordham Water Polo; his Rams finished fourth after losing to Wagner on Sunday

It was great to have all this talent in the New York City area, which will only help to promote the sport. Everybody at the university really put themselves out to be gracious hosts.

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Fordham Coach Bill Harris and his assistant, Brian Bacharach. Photo Courtesy: Fordham Athletics

We’re sorry we didn’t get to the final, but it was a fabulous match that went to overtime. That’s all you can hope for.

– One of the key contributors for George Washington was Andrew Mavis, a local kid.

I saw Andrew when he was playing down in Princeton—you could recognize that kid was special. We would have liked to have him come here; he’s a great player.

– Your thoughts about water polo in New York City.

It’s exponentially improving. I know our squad is slowly improving every year; St. Francis will bring in new talent again, and Wagner is an upstart that everybody has to worry about playing them. Chris [Radmonovich] has done a great job.

[On The Record with Bill Harris, Head Coach of Fordham Men’s Water Polo]

It’s great to have the competition; it makes us work even harder.

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Colleen Lischwe, Bearcat Men’s and Women’s Coach. Photo Courtesy: McKendree Athletics

Colleen Lischwe, Head Coach, McKendree Men’s and Women’s Water Polo; in her first year coaching the Bearcats they won the MAWPC-West

– How is it to be at Fordham playing with some of the best teams on the East Coast?

It’s certainly where we want to be. We want to be a team like Bucknell or [George Washington] in the future. I don’t graduate anyone player next year, so we have the opportunity to continue stepping up. In order to do that we have to play teams like these.

Without the opportunity to be here then we wouldn’t know quite what to expect. I give [our players] as tough of a schedule as I can—but being here in a championship format, seeing these teams at their best; it’s good for us to participate in and good for us to learn from.

[On The Record with Colleen Lischwe, Head Coach of McKendree Men’s and Women’s Water Polo]

We tell them: every grab that you have to fight through; every call that you get, every shot that gets blocked—every shot that you make. That is helping us step up for future games, whether for tomorrow or next season.

I truly feel we can’t go anywhere but up at this point.

October 28, 2017; Novato High School, Novato, California, USA; High School Water Polo : MCAL: Sir Francis Drake High School Varsity vs Tamalpais High School Varsity; Drake's Emerson Sullivan Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne- KLC fotos

Emerson Sullivan. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Emerson Sullivan, freshman at Johns Hopkins Water Polo; Sullivan was a highly recruited player from the Bay Area that choose to come East

I love [Hopkins] so far. The team is exactly what I saw when I looked here and why I came here. We’re super close—that’s what I wanted. That’s what I got and I’m lovin’ it. It was definitely the right choice.

– Coming to Hopkins you had to change a lot of different things: coasts, environments, pools—going from outdoor to indoor. How as that adjustment been?

That’s definitely been different. I wanted to experience the whole other side of [the country]. I miss California, but seeing the variety on the East Coast—everything’s a little different here—it makes me appreciate both coasts.

[The Pursuit of Emerson Sullivan, Top Water Polo Prospect]

But I am excited to go back, I’m missing a lot of the stuff back home.

Tom Hyham, Head Coach, La Salle Men’s and Women’s Water Polo; in his first year coaching the Explorers, who are in the MAWPC tournament for the first time.

– You and your wife end up in Philadelphia, which is a stark contrast to Huntington Beach.

My wife and I were both raised in California—we went to the same high school together—we’ve been Southern California people just about for our whole lives. There was a little stint in Arizona, but we wanted a change; we wanted something pretty drastic. And this Philadelphia move is drastic, to say the least. [Laughs].

But we’ve enjoyed every single minute of it so far.

– You arrive on the scene in August to take over an Explorers’ men’s program that was jumping from a conference that includes DII and DIII teams to one that has some of the top polo programs in the East. How prepared were you for that transition?

We knew that coming in. Moving from the [MAWPC] West to the East, there was no surprise. It was going to be tougher competition. We approached our entire program as a two-year plan. We’re transitioning into the Eastern conference right now. If we can start knocking off those bottom four teams; as we see right now, we’re getting closer to them, the remainder of next year is building up.

[On The Record with Tom Hyham, Head Coach of La Salle Men’s and Women’s Water Polo]

Will we be a championship team next year? I don’t think that’s likely, but possibly—depending upon who we get in. It’s a two-year plan in that we don’t expect to come in and have an impact right away, but we do expect to have impact over a period of 24 months.

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Cole Strohson (white cap) a bright young talent for La Salle. Photo Courtesy: CWPA

Mike Salinas, father to Isaac Salinas of Navy Water Polo; Salinas was named 2018 MAWPC Rookie of the Year

– Clearly yours is a military family. How did that come about?

I’m honored for Isaac. He has two other brothers; Michael is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marines and Aaron is in his third year at West Point. It’s a calling from God—either that or all the GI Joes they played with when they were younger. [Laughs]

– Did they all play water polo?

They are all graduates of Malvern Prep under [Coach] Jay Schiller. He’s a phenomenal coach and a really good friend. Isaac wasn’t even in the school but Jay put him in the water because he was always on the bench—so if he was watching he might as well get in.

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Isaac Salinas. Photo Courtesy: The Naval Academy

Malvern Prep really has this brotherhood that’s not just hype, it’s legit. They’ve got good values; there are some kids who are coachable, and half the battle is mental. These kids’ heads are on straight.

– Your son had a spectacular freshman year; you and your wife must be very proud of him.

The coaches, Luis [Nicolao] and Tom [Popp], have a lot to do with it. The three of them including Isaac are new. To put a freshman in a starting role—I thought that was going to be an issue early on. But it’s not; [the players] have embraced each other. I’ve heard from the upperclassmen; even academically they help each other out.

It’s a close-knit family, and I think that comes from the top.

– Isaac was recruited by Coach Mladen Stanicic, and then Coach Nicolao showed up. How was that transition?

[Navy was] looking at him and we were talking—they told him they were very serious about him. So, he only applied to Navy.

I tell you again, it’s a calling, because all my kids only applied to one college. As a parent I stressed over it, because you always need that fallback position, but they were sure what they wanted to do and it all worked out.

Scottie Schulte, Bucknell water polo great; all-time leading scorer in NCAA history (586 goals); member of the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame.

– Rade Joksimovic would be the greatest scorer in any program—except at Bucknell.

Rade is extremely talented and can carry a team on his back. If I look at him when I was in college, he’s definitely superior. But the whole thing with them winning—because every team is going to focus on him—is for the other guys to step up. [The other team] is either going to press him and drop on everybody else… if he gets his three or four goals a game and helps his teammates out, [Bucknell] has a chance to win.

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Rade Joksimovic. Photo Courtesy: Alan Storey

Their biggest challenge is that they don’t go very deep—they go maybe one, two guys on their bench. if they don’t get in foul trouble or give up a lot of 6 on 5s.

– Last year you had the upset special in the MAWPC playoffs; a young, hungry Wagner squad that caught Bucknell looking ahead. When you’re the #1 team you have a target on your back.

You’ve got the number 1 target on your back but you’ve got the number 1 player on your [roster]. If I’m these other teams playing Bucknell, I want to rattle Rade, I want to rattle him early, I want to get ahead. We’ve got a young goalie [Jack Otto]—one who hasn’t played in in a big pressure game like this one, so that might be the difference.

The Bison will feed off the fact that you lost this last year and you were the best team. Player by player in your starting group [you have] the best six, so you’ve got to believe in that, finish off the plays and play good defense.

–  It appears like the general attitude around the sport in New York City and in the East is positive. Do you agree?

There is a very competitive aspect to what’s currently happening in East Coast water polo. The four team in the final four for the here [Bucknell, Fordham, George Washington and Wagner] and the four at Brown for the Northeastern [Water Polo Conference]—the three Ivies [Brown, Harvard, Princeton] and St. Francis; on any given day, anyone can beat each other.

This competitive environment really brings everybody up. To continue that momentum, there’s so many kids playing this sport at the age group level—to be able to keep bringing the level up, you’ve got these four top teams—Cal, Stanford, USC and UCLA—you’ve got to get [East Coast teams] up to that level.

You’ve got a lot of California players and a lot of European players; that brings it up even more.

Ann and Tom Mavis; parents to George Washington junior Andrew Mavis

– What is your son’s experience with the sport?

[Anne Mavis] Andrew has been playing water polo since he was six years old. He started playing with the Stingrays at the Lawrenceville School, then he moved over and played with Tiger Water Polo [at Princeton] and he also played with Navy. For his first JOs he went with them and played for Leslie Entwistle.

– You’ve been watching the sport for a while; how is it to have your son—big as he is!—knocked around the pool?

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GW’s Andrew Mavis (white cap) keeps his eye on the ball. Photo Courtesy: Gloria Kushel

It’s a very physical sport. Lots of coaches asked about football but he was committed to water polo.

– There’s no polo background in your family?

[Tom Mavis] That’s right. He wanted that kind of interaction that football had but [water polo] was a lot safer at that age, which made it much easier.

Football was in the picture if we didn’t know water polo; it was football or hockey or something like that.

– So you start following Andrew around from team-to-team and from tournament-to-tournament…

What was not supposed to be [a] travel sport—which we said early on that we weren’t the travel type—turned into a big travel commitment! It was the triangle of Pittsburgh, Greenwich and Annapolis.

– Having gone through this experience, and being right near Princeton—one of the best programs on the East Coast—he picks… George Washington?!

[Anne Mavis] He did look at Princeton, he did look at California schools. It was his choice on the whole commitment and coaches approaching him that he ended up at GW.

[In Thrilling Finish to Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Final, George Washington Tops Bucknell in OT]

What was wild was when he was first being recruited, GW didn’t even have a coach. One of their former athletes, Guy Helman, who Andrew first started playing water polo with, was pushing him towards GW. And then Barry [King] came into the picture—after Andrew started looking at GW.

Guy is now 28 and he’s how Andrew started playing water polo when he was six. He’s been an instrumental person in [Andrew’s polo career].

– This is the second final in a row for the Colonials; how does it compare to last year’s win over Wagner?

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Everyone in the pool! Colonials move on… Photo Courtesy: Gloria Kushel

[Tom Mavis] It was a big thrill. We didn’t anticipate last year’s success. We were just going for the ride—especially at that Harvard game, how it ended. We were up by two going into the final minutes. We were really close to getting [to California]. That was like: Wow; this is amazing!

– What will it be like if your son gets back to NCAAs?

[Anne Mavis] Magical. It’s an amazing team, we have a lot of freshmen, and they’ve created this cohesive unit… it’s just thrilling for a young team playing at this level. If they make it to [NCAAs] I just can’t [describe it]; there’s no words.

Barry King, Head Coach, George Washington Men’s and Women’s Water Polo; the Colonials will play Princeton in a 2018 NCAA play-in match, Saturday, November 24.

We’re looking forward to the opportunity. I think last year we got into that game against Harvard and it was gravy. We didn’t have a whole lot of expectation; it was a “Just fun to get the t-shirt” kind of thing.

This year we’ve talked about “Plus 1”—we want to do this championship plus 1—which means one more win [in the NCAA play-in match].

We’ve seen [Princeton] a couple of times but we haven’t played them this year. Based on mutual results it looks like it should be a great match.