This past weekend, the Yale men’s water polo club team hosted the annual New England League Tournament in the Kiphuth Exhibition Pool and welcomed seven other teams from across the New England division of collegiate club water polo.
After playing two games each on Saturday and Sunday, the Yale team finished with a 1–3 record, after beating University of Connecticut Sunday afternoon 15–6 and losing to defending league champion Boston College, along with Tufts and Dartmouth.
“We’re a very young team with a lot of new first years and new grad students,” coach Boaz Bar said. “So this team is going to run together for a long time, and we’re very optimistic and happy that the guys got a chance to get some experience in the league.”
While the team suffered tough losses, most notably losing by just five points to Tufts after leading for most of the game, the Elis continued to fight against their other opponents. Student-coach Yan Oczkowicz ’19 noted that the game against Boston College was the Elis’ tightest so far in the league, as the Bulldogs lost by just nine goals. The next day, they lost to Dartmouth by just three points, a recovery Bar said was a testament to the squad’s character.
The home event was the team’s second tournament for this season, and captain Ben Kieff ’20 said that he saw definite growth from the team over the course of the weekend. Oczkowicz added that the competitive games helped to mesh a large class of new recruits with the rest of the team.
In fact, during the game against UConn, the Yale lineup of field players at one point consisted of five first years and one sophomore. Kieff said that this lineup — and the ensuing victory over UConn by nine points — gave him a good perspective on the team’s future.
“The first years, who have only had a little over a month with the team, have been showing their dedication with high turnout at practice twice a day, five days a week,” captain Mila Dorji ’20 said. “They’re a big group with exceptional potential, and I look forward to seeing where they take the team through this season, the next and beyond.”
Standouts from this tournament included first years Jason Own ’22 and Josh Ip ’22, who scored 11 goals between the two of them. Own scored eight goals, including five penalty shots, one in each game against Boston College, Tufts and UConn and two against Dartmouth. Oczkowicz also pointed to Michael Mattessich ’19 and Jack Mahoney DIV ’21 as other outstanding players from these games, as they drew countless ejections and scored over 13 goals.
Ip, who started playing on a varsity water polo team in high school, said that he really enjoyed playing with the Yale team this year. He noted that the Bulldog squad was the best team on which he had ever played.
Bar noted that the team gained many skilled young players this season, which will allow the team to continue to develop and improve together. He said this tournament provided first years with the chance to gain their first experience playing in the league and that this team will “continue to run together for a long time.”
Dorji added that the overall level of play demonstrated by the team this past weekend was higher than last year’s performance and that the team established themselves as a credible threat to the top-ranked schools in the league. Kieff also said that with the improvements made during this tournament, he is confident that the team will continue to improve and can do well at league championships.
“I’m confident with the strides we made during this tournament and with two more weeks of hard practice, we should be able to contend for the league title,” Kieff said.
The Bulldogs head to Boston University on Oct. 20 and 21 for their next tournament.
Chloé Glass | firstname.lastname@example.org