Men’s water polo beats MIT, loses to US Air Force Academy on Saturday
The men’s water polo (7-6) split its two games at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center on Saturday, beating the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2-4) before losing to the US Air Force Academy (11- 1) in their last game before the The Bears start conference play at Princeton on October 2.
In his first game of the day, Bruno won 16-8 against MIT with a seven-goal third quarter that saw six different players find the back of the net. “Our defense against the pressure was much better in this third quarter than it was in the first half,” said head coach Felix Mercado. “When you put that kind of pressure defense on a team, you generate turnovers, and we were able to take advantage of MIT’s mistakes and score the ball.”
According to Filip Aleksic ’24, the Bears’ depth and conditioning allowed them to capitalize on the shortcomings of MIT’s defense. “Usually the third quarter is when you can start to dominate the other team,” said Aleksic. “We had a lot of stares in the first two quarters that we were missing and then we just started to put the ball in the cage.”
“We’ve been a third quarter team in almost every game,” added Max Boucher ’24. “As we catch the other team starting to get a little more tired, it’s our chance to put in that little extra effort to pass or catch up.”
Freshmen Aleksic and Connor Enright ’24 continued their strong rookie campaigns with hat tricks in the game against MIT. “Filip and Connor both have extensive water polo experience, and their ability to bring that experience and take it onto the pitch has been critical to success,” said Mercado.
Aleksic, who has 14 goals this season, thanks his teammates for giving him scoring opportunities. “I have a lot of guys who know what’s going on on offense around me, so I was able to get those passes at the right time,” he said. “It was the whole group contributing as a whole – it was just up to me to put that ball in the cage.”
With the win over MIT, Brown ended a three-game losing streak after tough games against Stanford University, George Washington University and Harvard earlier in the Princeton Invitational. “It was a good time to bounce back,” said Boucher. “We not only lost the last few games, but we also lost a few guys to injuries and illnesses in the last two weeks. I would say last week, before games, was probably our lowest point as a team in terms of morale.
“It was very important for us (to get this win) because MIT is one of the teams in our conference and also because it was our home pool,” Aleksic added. “It’s really important to protect the house, especially when all our friends and all the fans come.”
In their second game of the day, the shorthanded Bears – missed by goaltenders Ugo Piovan ’22 and Joe Gallagher ’24, as well as center Anderson Todd ’25 and forward Niko Bhatia ’22, all due to injuries – lost 10-14 to the Air Force. The Falcons extended their mid-season winning streak to five games with their win. Injuries at the start of the campaign “throw a little boost (in the team’s season), as some people get every minute in training, and we ask the guys who have less experience in these situations to step up and contribute, “Mercado said.” Being cold thrown in there … it’s a tough transition. “
Due to Gallagher and Piovan’s injuries, goalkeeper Simeon Dong ’25 found himself in goal for both games on Saturday. “Simeon Dong stepped in and had an amazing day yesterday,” Mercado said. “He came in first year, we threw him between the pipes and he did fine.”
“I would say both (Dong and Maxwell Patterson ’23) did a great job, especially defensively,” said Aleksic. “This tournament, although we missed a lot of our good players, was a good opportunity for Simeon and Max. I think they have stepped up and proven themselves.
Despite Dong and Patterson’s strong performances, unforced errors led to Brown’s loss in his Air Force match, according to Mercado. “Every time we got close to a point or tied the game, we made a couple of mistakes that resulted in (Air Force) scoring opportunities. We are dealing with injuries, so we couldn’t afford these kinds of mental mistakes, ”said Mercado. “But we watched the movie this morning and it was all correctable errors. … It’s not like we can’t beat teams like the Air Force; we just need to limit our mistakes.
As Brown heads into the conference game from their clash against Princeton on October 2, Mercado says the team is more focused on themselves than their opponent. “We have to be better at what we do,” he said. “I don’t want us to lose our focus by paying too much attention to our opponent. If we don’t succeed at what we’re supposed to do offensively and defensively, it doesn’t matter how well prepared we are for what the other team is doing.
“If we don’t make basic mistakes, we can beat Princeton,” Enright said. “They’re a good team, but we really play ourselves more than anything else. If we can play our game and set the tone, we shouldn’t worry about the outcome.