Fordham Water Polo Primed for Another Strong Season


Lucas Nieto Jasny and Fordham Water Polo are looking to have a huge 2022 season. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Fordham Water Polo enters 2022 coming off a historic 2021 season. Finishing the year 26-7, the Rams won the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference-East (MAWPC) Championship and earned a bid in the NCAA tournament as a 16 seed. With the majority of their young core still intact, and a couple key additions, Fordham Water Polo is primed for another successful season. 

Returning for their sophomore seasons is the dynamic trio of George Papanikolaou, Jacopo Parrella and Lucas Nieto Jasny. The three burst onto the scene last year, making an immediate impact as they shouldered Fordham’s offense. Papanikolauo led the team with 74 goals and ranked eighth for goals of any Ram in a single season. Nieto Jasny was close behind with 69 goals while Parrella’s 57 goals and a team high 67 assists gave him the team lead in total points with 124. With all three possessing lethal shots and dynamic playmaking ability, they were the only Fordham players to score over 100 points last year.  

The Rams lost three former All-Americans players as Bailey O’Mara, Hans Zdolsek and Dimitris Koukias graduated. O’Mara had been the starting goaltender in some capacity since 2018 and was named First Team MAWPC-East twice. His 351 saves in 2019 are the most by any Fordham goaltender in a single season. Zdolsek was one of the bigger offensive contributors last season, scoring 47 goals and 38 assists. He was named the MVP of the Mid-Atlantic tournament for his performance in the playoffs. Koukias was a standout in 2019 by scoring 70 goals and played a big role in Fordham’s offense. 

Head coach Brian Bacharach believes there are players on the current roster that can fill the roles left by O’Mara, Zdolsek and Koukias, but noted that their impact went beyond their statistical production: “The thing we’re gonna miss the most is that leadership group.” O’Mara and Zdolsek served as the team captains in 2021, and all three were veteran leaders for a very young roster. “I’ve been very up front with our guys that there’s a leadership void that we’re going to have to figure out how to fill.”

This team should certainly have the talent to replace their graduating seniors, thanks in large part to the addition of some exciting transfer students. Two time All-American graduate student Nir Gross joins the squad as a highly touted player from UC Davis. Gross was named the Player of the Year in the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA) Conference and is a gold medalist on the Israeli National Team. Gross plays center forward, and could slot in as Koukias’ replacement. 

Sophomore Luca Silvestri also joins the Rams after an impressive freshman season at Westcliff University where he notched 102 goals in just 27 games. “Luca is a very similar type player to Hans,” noted Bacharach, who added that Silvestri’s talent as both a shooter and defender makes him a dual threat. 

After welcoming eight freshmen to the roster last year, Fordham adds just two freshmen for the 2022 season in Balazs Berenyi and Brendan Cassidy. Bacharach hailed Berenyi as “the ultimate utility player,” possessing the ability to play any position in the pool. Cassidy is a strong armed lefty who joins the Rams after scoring 120 goals in just 20 games as a high school senior. Along with graduate student transfer and fellow lefty Paul Pittion, he will look to improve Fordham’s offensive attack from the left side of the pool. 

The presumptive starter at goaltender is sophomore Thomas Lercari. Lercari got valuable playing time last year filling in for O’Mara, who went down with a lower body injury towards the end of the season. He ended up starting in the Mid-Atlantic tournament as well as Fordham’s lone NCAA tournament game. Lercari shined on the big stage, making a game-winning save in overtime to send Fordham to the championship and earning Rookie of the Tournament honors. “You could see him growing into that confidence and into the position,” said Bacharach, who praised Lercari for the way he stepped into the role as a freshman. 

Fordham opens its 2022 schedule with the Harvard Invitational on Sept. 3 and the Princeton Invitational on Sept. 10, featuring a rematch against a Princeton team that eliminated them from the NCAA tournament last year. 

After such a strong season, all eyes are on Fordham to see if they can replicate it. Coach Bacharach, however, is quick to quell that talk. “Trying to replicate what we did last year is a bit of a fool’s errand.” Instead, Fordham will look to learn from last year’s success as they aim for another successful season and another potential run at the NCAA tournament.