Water Polo starts season with 2-2 record again

Sports

Enrique Carrasco, Editor 

Courtesy of Go Explorers

The La Salle Explorers Water Polo team started the season on the road for the second season. Last year, the Explorers faced a four-game split, three of which were at Bucknell, having to face off against Bucknell, Mercyhurst, and Saint Francis, Pa. Eventually, they faced off against nationally ranked Princeton at home. This year, the Explorers traveled up to Brown University to play in the 2023 Bruno Classic, where they faced off against host team Brown, Gannon University, Saint Francis PA, and Harvard University. 

The Explorers (NV) opened their season on the road facing off against the 25th-ranked Brown University Bears. The game was off to a hot start, with the Brown Bears winning the game-starting swim-off and quickly converting to take an early 1-0 lead over the Explorers. Sophomore attacker Francesca Co, however, refused to let the Bears take the momentum and found the back of the net for her 50th Career goal as an Explorer, an outstanding feat considering she is only in her second year at La Salle. After this, the Bears went on a 2-0 run to finish the quarter 3-1.

The Explorers came into the second quarter full of energy, with Graduate Student Center Forward Madelyn Koerper finding the back of the net after a defensive effort from the Explorers. The Explorers, however, were not able to stop the offensive might of the Bears and gave up a 5-meter penalty shot, which the Bears converted, putting the Bears in a 4-2 lead. This penalty gave the Bears the first of their goals during a 3-0 run, which was only stopped by Francesca Co right before the half, cutting the Explorer’s deficit to 6-3 heading into the half. 

The third quarter of the contest was defensively dominated, with the Explorers allowing only one goal in the quarter, while failing to convert any power plays and scoring the only goal in the quarter. The Explorer’s only goal in the quarter came from Koerper once again toward the end of the quarter. 

The Bears maintained control and momentum throughout the 4th quarter, scoring back-to-back goals, which put the Bears up 9-4. The rest of the game was predominantly defense centered, with the Explorers only allowing one more goal in the quarter. The Explorers fell 10-4 against Brown. 

The Explorers then faced off against the Gannon Golden Knights. The Explorers managed to go on a 6-0 run, only stopped by a goal from the Golden Knights toward the end of the first quarter. The second quarter only saw two total goals, both of which came from the arm of Sophomore Francesca Co, who was able to convert a five-meter penalty shot as well as finding the top corner of the cage only two minutes later. The Explorers went into the half with an 8-1 lead. 

The second half of the game was a predominantly defense-controlled game. The scoring drought ended after a goal from Junior attacker Hannah Warren, followed by Senior team Captain Shanna Zuanich who was able to find the top right corner of the goal, putting the explorers up 10-1. The Explorers won the matchup 13-3.

The Explorers then traveled to Harvard University, where they faced off against ST. Francis PA, whom they defeated 9-6. The Explorers (NV) then faced off against (T-19) Harvard University, whom they lost 18-7 to. 

Although the team went .500 in their first weekend, there were mostly positive notes from the team. In a post-game interview, Francesca Co stated, “I think the most important thing is that even though we brought home two wins, which is a good start, we have to learn how to keep a clear mind during the game. Especially in the most difficult games, as was the case against Brown and Harvard, when fatigue starts to take over, we have to stay rational and play smart.” The girls were failing to win swim-offs against faster teams, and often the lack of subs by the coach made the game more difficult for the Explorers. The first weekend of games was the first test of the new head coach James Wolff. La Salle is Wolff’s first experience being the head coach of a Division I athletic program, and the lack of knowledge was apparent against nationally ranked teams. 

The team, however, is full of motivation and energy and seems poised to make a postseason run in the MAAC championships. It’ll be interesting to see how Sophomores Francesca Co as well Tatum Lomax, the youngest starters on the team, further develop in Divisional I athletics and how the coaching style might change depending on the opponent. Regardless, if this weekend of games is any indication of what is to come, the Water Polo team will find themselves battling for top positions within their conference.