The Georgetown men’s club water polo team travels to California Poly State this weekend for the 2002 National Collegiate Club Water Polo Championship. The Hoyas, ranked 17th nationally, reached the tournament by virtue of winning the Atlantic Division Championship following a perfect 8-0 season.

Last year was the program’s first trip to the championships. This year, the Hoyas look to improve on their 13th place finish.

Georgetown faces a difficult first round match-up with University of Washington, ranked eighth in the country. The Huskies, who went 3-1 in the regular season and won the Northwest Division championship, are tournament veterans. Washington was the runner-up in 2000, losing to Michigan State, 6-5, in the title game. Last year, the Huskies claimed a sixth place finish.

A victory against Washington is critical for the Hoyas. The championship features a winner’s bracket and a loser’s bracket. Dropping the first game would prevent Georgetown from finishing any higher than ninth.

Senior Captain Marshall Spooner reinforced the importance of winning the opener.

“Last year, we were just so happy to be there that before we knew it, we had lost our first two games and were fighting to stay out of last place for the tournament,” Spooner said. “I know we could have performed better, and this year, we’re out to prove it.”

Head Coach Peter Freeman (SFS ’02) noted a change in attitude this year as well.

“Last year we set our sights on winning the Atlantic Division Championship, we celebrated for two weeks and saw Florida as more of a vacation than anything else,” Freeman said. “This year we are going to California to establish Georgetown water polo as a premier club.” 

Spooner said the team has had a great three weeks of practice and the players are in peak shape. One of the keys to Georgetown’s success this season has been strong team play. Georgetown must maintain its balanced attack in order to go deep into the tournament.

The Hoyas are an excellent defensive team and will have to maintain the intensity against Washington, and beyond. Spooner said he believes junior captain Matt Sullivan will be key during the championship run.

“Matt has played great defense all year,” Spooner said. “He will need to keep the opposing team’s hole set out of the score sheet if we are to do well.”

On offense, Spooner and senior Rich Storey will have to continue creating scoring opportunities and keeping the opponent’s defense off balance. Georgetown may have found a secret weapon in graduate student Albert Won, whose efforts in the Atlantic Division Championship led Spooner to say that he was “easily our VP.” Opposing teams could not contain Won, though he often found himself double- or triple-teamed.

The team is confident that it can make an impact at the championships, and an opening win against Washington would do just that. Freeman and Spooner agree that Georgetown’s goal is to win its first game, noting that playing in the winner’s bracket ensures positive results.

“Water polo is a sport where anything can happen and if Georgetown plays its game, the way we’ve been playing all year, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t go all the way,” Spooner said.

Freeman said he sees this as an opportunity to establish Georgetown as a perennial contender. “They have worked hard over the past two months, sacrificed a lot, they have something to prove to themselves,” Freeman said. “The Washington guys may be bigger and faster, but we will come to play and win. These guys have already proved to me that they can win, now it’s time to show the rest of the nation.”

Georgetown faces Washington on Friday, Nov. 8, and games will be played through Sunday, Nov. 10.

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