STANFORD, Calif. –- After earning its place among the nation’s elite with a spirited postseason run, No. 11-ranked George Washington University men’s water polo closed a historic season by falling to No. 2 University of California-Los Angeles, 18-6, in an National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship quarterfinal at Stanford University’s Avery Aquatic Center.
The Colonials were among the final six teams competing for a national championship after taking their second straight Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Championship in thrilling fashion and then downing No. 13 Princeton University in overtime last weekend for their first NCAA victory. They earned their best-ever national ranking at No. 11 and tied the program record with 23 wins during a memorable fall campaign.
The journey ended Thursday against defending national champion UCLA, which built a six-goal lead in the opening half and then pulled away after halftime thanks to a 6-0 third-quarter advantage. The Bruins advance to face No. 3 University of Southern California (USC) on Saturday, December 1, for a spot in Sunday’s national championship game against either No. 1 Stanford University or No 7 University of California-San Diego.
On the sport’s biggest stage, Andrew Mavis paced GW with three goals, capping a junior season in which he scored a career-high 83 goals. Andras Levai posted a goal and three assists, while Atakan Destici and Zach Slaughter also found the net for the Buff and Blue.
Austin Pyrch made four saves over the first three quarters in his final game in Buff and Blue to finish with 582 for his career, good for fifth in program history.
Just three years removed from a winless season in conference play, GW returned to the NCAA tournament and used last year’s experience to take the next step forward to join the national heavyweights in California.
Led by Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) All-Conference honorees Destici, Pyrch and Mavis, the Colonials thrived under pressure in the postseason. The Buff and Blue fought off elimination in the conference final with a buzzer-beating goal against No. 18 Bucknell University before winning overtime. Then, they erased a five-goal deficit to beat Princeton in extra time and earn their trip to the West Coast.
Going forward, GW will have to replace four seniors but is set to bring back plenty of talent, including its top four scorers. Destici paces that group after posting a team-high 157 points this fall. He’ll enter his senior season as the program’s all-time assist leader and within reach of the career points record.
Release courtesy George Washington University Athletics Communications