Water Polo Wins Home Opener, Unveils 2021 Championship Banner


Fordham capped off their ring ceremony with a home opener victory last Thursday. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Last Thursday was the home opener for Fordham Water Polo, and a special one at that. Beyond the excitement of playing in front of Fordham fans for the first time this season, Fordham celebrated their 2021 conference championship with the unveiling of a new banner and the presentation of rings. 

“It’s a special night,” head coach Brian Bacharach said prior to the game. 2021 was an extraordinary season for Fordham, who posted their greatest record in program history, going 26-7 with a 11-1 record in conference. Sweeping the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) tournament en route to a championship and the program’s first NCAA Championship berth, Fordham was a dominant force in the Collegiate Water Polo Association. “There are a lot of emotions attached to that, but at the same time, we’ve got to stay focused on the task at hand.”

The task at hand being a conference matchup against Wagner College, the 5th ranked team in the MAWPC led by two of the top point scorers in the entire conference. Fordham played Wagner earlier this season, squeaking by with a 12-11 win, but Bacharach didn’t seem completely satisfied with his team’s performance. “We watched a lot of film from that game and a lot of mistakes we made were of our own making.”

On top of the home opener, banner unveiling and conference matchup, Fordham headed into the week still reeling from a disappointing weekend at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Invitational, where the Rams went just 1-3, including a pair of Saturday losses where Fordham surrendered leads in the second half. “Both those games on Saturday were winnable games for us, and we squandered that opportunity,” said Bacharach, who noted that closing games out is a priority for the team moving forward. 

Closing out games would not be an issue in this one as Fordham took a 8-2 lead into halftime and kept the pressure on to secure the 14-9 win and a season sweep over Wagner. Sophomore drivers George Papanikolaou and Jacopo Parrella notched hat tricks while graduate student Nir Gross, junior Christos Loupakis and freshman Balazs Berenyi each had two goals of their own. Gross and Loupakis also played a major role defensively, holding Wagner center Oliver Fodor scoreless. Fodor, fresh off a 121 goal season that set a Wagner record, was completely shut down by their aggressive two meter defense. Fordham’s keeper, Thomas Lercari, was also fantastic in net, making 12 saves and stifling the Wagner offense. Lercari held Wagner scoreless from the beginning of the second quarter until well into the third quarter, allowing Fordham to grab a sizable lead. 

With the win, Fordham improves to 10-6 on the season and 4-0 in conference play. Their home opener is just the beginning of a long stretch of conference play as 12 of Fordham’s remaining 14 regular season games will come against conference opponents. This weekend, Fordham will travel to Virginia for the MAWPC Crossover, their final tournament of the regular season. With four conference matchups over the span of two days, the Rams will get their first look at McKendree University and Mercyhurst University. The tournament also features Salem University and Gannon University, two teams Fordham handled with ease earlier this year. 

With the unveiling of the 2021 conference championship banner, Fordham puts a cap on last year’s fantastic season. In fitting fashion, this year’s Fordham Rams, with similar aspirations of their own, honored the day with a conference win. Bacharach appreciated the opportunity to celebrate last season, even with the pressure of this current season. “I’m a firm believer that whether your season ends in a championship or not, there’s always special elements you’re taking away from it.” In the case of the 2021 team, it doesn’t hurt to take home some rings as well. 

In a world of sports where the mindset of “onto the next one,” is so prevalent, Bacharach’s mindset is refreshing. “If we were just focused on results at the end of the season, then you’d be pretty miserable in life and you’d also never get to pull one of these banners down. I think it’s celebrating those moments along the way and enjoying the process that is one of the most important and special parts of team sports.”