Nationally Ranked Water Polo Learns From Challenging Competition


Papanikolau has been a goal-scoring machine, earning him MAWPC Rookie of the Week honors. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Just seven matches into the 2021 season, the Fordham Water Polo team currently stands as the 16th ranked team in the nation, according to the most recent Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference poll, with a 4-3 record.

A successful trip to Massachusetts to begin the season propelled the Rams to victory against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 16-5, followed by an 11-8 victory against #11 Harvard University. A 6-5 loss to Santa Clara University and an imposing 25-5 defeat over Mercyhurst University brought the team to 3-2 heading into the Princeton Invitational tournament. 

On day one, #14 California Baptist University edged Fordham by a razor-thin margin, 13-12. The Rams had an array of scorers, led by junior driver and California native Sebastian Zapatero with three scores. Zapatero contributed to a convincing comeback effort in which the Rams trailed 13-9 down the stretch. Sophomore attacker Nacho Ariste and freshman driver George Papanikolaou added to the late rally that ultimately fell short. 

Fordham split on day two, defeating St. Francis Brooklyn 14-10 in the morning, while falling to #12 Princeton University, 13-6. Papanikolaou led scoring in match one with four goals, while senior Dimitris Koukias and freshman Jacopo Parrella each added a hat trick. In the second match, Fordham started strong, leading Princeton 6-5 at the half. However, the Rams struggled to score on Princeton’s goaltender, Antonio Knez, who did not allow another goal, resulting in the 13-6 loss. 

“We have unbelievable potential to be successful this season, and you can see that in our opening games,” said senior captain and goaltender Bailey O’Mara just seven matches into the new season. “It was a learning weekend for our team with a fresh roster of players. We’re a young team, and we will develop as the season continues. I’m very excited to compete in our league and solidify our position as a top program in the country.”

The Rams’ next competition is on the road at the two-day Bison Invitational at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. They take on the host, Bucknell, on day one at 10 a.m. and Mercyhurst at 2 p.m.. On day two, they will see Wagner College at 9 a.m. and Mount St. Mary’s University at 2 p.m..