Fordham Water Polo Clinches MAWPC Title


Thomas Lercari and Fordham have won 15 games in a row and finish MAWPC play undefeated. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Fordham Water Polo, ranked #18, has clinched the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference (MAWPC) title for the second straight season, winning four more games in the process. With their win streak up to 15 games, the most in program history, the Rams are rolling with just one game left before the MAWPC tournament. 

Action began on Wednesday with the 10th annual Judge Cup game as the Fordham Rams took on their rival, the Iona Gaels. It’s been a lopsided rivalry as of late and Fordham flexed their muscles once again, defeating the Gaels 20-11 and improving their Judge Cup record to 7-3 since its inaugural game in 2012. Sophomore Lucas Nieto Jasny led the way with five goals while sophomore Luca Silvestri contributed four of his own as the two continue to score at a ridiculous rate over the past few weeks. Sophomore George Papanikolaou dished out a game high six assists, surpassing the 100 point marker for the second straight season. 

That was far from all for the Rams, who hit the road for one last time in the regular season with three games over the weekend. First up was a noon Saturday matchup against George Washington University (GW), posing the greatest threat to Fordham’s bid at a second straight MAWPC title. Heading into this one, the 21-5 Colonials were ranked #19 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) national polls and #2 in the MAWPC polls, directly behind the Rams. Despite falling to Fordham earlier in the season in their only conference loss of the season, a win could even the season series and catapult GW back into MAWPC title conversation. 

Fordham scored the first three goals of the contest on markers from junior Christos Loupakis, Silvestri and Papanikolaou. Loupakis and Papanikolaou both scored once more while Nieto Jasny and freshman Balazs Berenyi each added one of their own as the Rams took a 7-3 lead into halftime. The Colonials narrowed the gap in the second half, keeping within one to two goals for most of the second half. GW cut the lead down to one in the fourth quarter, but the Rams held on in the final minute of play to secure the 14-13 win. Sophomore goalkeeper Thomas Lercari shined in one of his best performances yet, recording a career-high 21 saves to stifle the dangerous GW offense. On the offensive side, Loupakis posted five goals while Silvestri, Papanikolaou and graduate student Nir Gross each had a pair of markers. The win officially clinched the MAWPC title for Fordham, who swept GW in the season series. 

The Rams departed Washington, D.C., and headed for Annapolis, Md. to take on Navy in the Saturday nightcap. Fordham got off to a slow start but stayed strong defensively. With the score tied at four halfway through the third quarter, Fordham went on a 7-1 run to finish out the game, coming away with the 11-5 victory. Lercari was excellent once again, recording 13 saves and holding Navy’s offense to their lowest scoring output of the season. Sophomore Jacopo Parrella added to his team lead in goals with a hat trick while Papanikolaou added two of his own.

For their final conference game of the season, Fordham stayed in Maryland, venturing to Baltimore to take on Johns Hopkins University. In fitting fashion of a team that remained undefeated in conference play, Fordham won their final conference game with dominance as 11 different Rams found the back of the net. Holding a 10-6 lead at halftime, Fordham pulled away with a seven goal third quarter en route to a 19-11 victory. Gross and Parrella had hat tricks while Silvestri, Loupakis, Papanikolaou and Nieto Jasny each notched a pair of goals. 

With just one non-conference game remaining in the regular season, Fordham will take an undefeated 16-0 record in conference play into the MAWPC tournament. If that wasn’t enough, the weekend sweep raises Fordham’s win streak to a historic 15 games. It’s been an unbelievable run for a Fordham Water Polo team that hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 24 and now boasts a season record of 23-6. With the close victory over GW, Fordham clinches the conference title in back-to-back seasons, ensuring the #1 seed for the reigning MAWPC conference champions. It’s a wonderful accomplishment for a program that has established itself as one of the very best on the east coast.

The weekend included some very special milestones as well. Lercari’s aforementioned saves record is only a small indicator of how fantastic he’s been in net this season. Stepping up for Fordham’s all-time saves leader Bailey O’Mara, the sophomore hasn’t skipped a beat as his fantastic performances in net have helped Fordham extend this dominant run. Since the winning streak began, Lercari is allowing just 8.7 goals per game. On the offensive side, Parrella has reached the 100 point mark for a second straight season while Papanikolaou has surpassed the 100 point mark and then some. Flying by his 110 point total from freshman year, Papanikolaou sits at 125 with one more regular season game and playoffs still upcoming. Nieto Jasny, who recorded 117 points in his freshman season last year, is just three points shy of the 100 point mark as well. 

The Rams will have one final home game this Friday against St. Francis Brooklyn College. While St. Francis defeated Fordham last year by a score of 13-7, the Rams head into this one about as hot as any team can be. With their offense firing on all cylinders and a defense that has smothered opponents, Fordham will look to keep the good times rolling with one final win before tournament play.