Paradise in the Pool! Boys' Water Polo Starts the Season with a Splash

Sneha Kumar ’24 in Sports | September 16, 2022

Right from the swim-off at Thursday afternoon’s Boys Varsity Water Polo match against Malvern Prep, it was apparent that Lawrenceville would dominate. Although starting goalkeeper and Co-Captain Bradley Barrett ’23 described the team's “nerves” as they entered the first game of the season, these were hard to notice given Lawrenceville’s exceptional performance. Co-Captain Max Blecher ’23 recalled that his mentality going into the game was to simply “score the first goal,” which Henrique Coelho ’25 gladly accomplished. He scored the first of many shots early in the first quarter, playing hole set for the first time. Big Red stole the ball from Malvern’s first three possessions, leading to several fast break opportunities as Lawrenceville extended its lead. Malvern attempted to counterattack, but Barrett extended all the way across the goal with his left hand to block the ball in an exceptional save. Co-Captain Akeil Smith ’23 was fouled towards the end of the first quarter, leading to a foul shot attempt from the six-meter mark. With a low skip shot, Smith delivered the ball swiftly in the bottom corner of the goal, closing out the first quarter with a 7-1 lead. 
The team’s great play continued into the second quarter, where Conan Chen ’24 scored his third goal of the game on a pass from Blecher, who also significantly contributed to the team’s zone defense; he later revealed the team learned the defense just one practice before the game. He also connected on a shot attempt early in the second quarter, rising over his defender to skip the ball under the outstretched arms of Malvern’s goalie. Coelho continued to shine, with two more goals right above the two-meter line. Barrett also kept up his stellar work with four outstanding blocks throughout the quarter, ending the half 13-2. Lawrenceville kept up their powerful performance in the second half, as they won the swim-off at the beginning of the third quarter. 

The team’s offensive ball movement, in part facilitated by Toby Richmond ’24, made it difficult for Malvern’s defense to stop Big Red’s dominance. Even as more of Malvern’s players began to score, exceptional defense allowed Big Red to maintain its lead. Several players and goalies were substituted into the game, allowing other stars to shine. Coming off the bench, Charlie Ambrecht ’24 had two goals in the fourth quarter as the game ended in a blow-out win, 22-9. Coelho led the team with seven goals, followed by Chen with five, and Blecher with three. Barrett expressed that though the beginning of the first quarter felt “fast paced [and] hectic,” he was proud that the team was able to execute after initial confusion. Additionally, Smith described reaching a “full circle moment” as the team lost a close game to Malvern just last year. He and Barrett credited the Coach’s defense and game plan; the team worked tirelessly on egg beater and passing drills which paid off during the game. Barrett also commented on the importance of the team finding its “momentum” early in the game. He credited the growth of returning players, as well as many of the new players, for the team’s success. Smith observed the team had “more depth” than last year, noticing that some players had grown from “swimmers to water polo players.” Still, the Captains aim to improve upon the team’s passing abilities and early game performance. Their next big game is against Haverford School on the 13th, and after a win in the Garden State Tournament last year, perhaps our boys can go undefeated.