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Water Polo Begins 2017 Season With Navy Open

Aug. 31, 2017

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy water polo begins the 2017 campaign with the annual Navy Open this weekend at Lejeune Hall and Scott Natatorium. The Midshipmen will play seven regular season contests plus an exhibition game on Saturday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Sept. 3.

Navy will host 10 teams -- Cal Lutheran, Fordham, Gannon, George Washington, Iona, Johns Hopkins, La Salle, Princeton, Salem International, and William & Jefferson -- in the annual water polo tournament.

"Our traditional start to the season has been the Navy Open," head coach Mladen Stanicic said of the annual tournament. "It is typically a good number of games against a variety of opponents. All of the games are very competitive and no one can be discounted."

The Mids officially open the season with a game against George Washington at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning in Lejuene Hall. The tournament continues with an exhibition against GW at noon in Scott Natatorium. Navy closes out the day with a game against Cal Lutheran (3:00 p.m.) in Lejeune Hall and versus Salem International (4:30 p.m.) in Scott Natatorium.

On Sunday, the Midshipmen play four games, starting at 8:00 a.m. against La Salle (in Scott Natatorium). The tournament hosts play Princeton at 9:30 a.m. in Lejeune Hall, before concluding the day with a split squad at 2:00 p.m. against Iona (in Lejeune Hall) and Gannon (in Scott Natatorium).

Sunday's game against Princeton will be streamed via the Patriot League Network.

Last season, the Midshipmen finished the year 8-18 overall, including a 2-8 mark in the Mid-Atlantic Water Polo Conference. The team returns 13 letterwinners off of last year's team. The 29-man roster consists of 10 seniors, three juniors, eight sophomores, and 10 freshmen.

Navy returns 10 seniors to the pool for the 2017 season -- Ian Bagent (Norcross, Ga.), Jared Castillo (League City, Texas), Gabe Gaspar (Pittsburgh, Pa.), J.B. Lee (Newport Coast, Calif.), Jack Robinson (Riverside, Conn.), Shepherd Warren (Baltimore, Md.), Tyler Zimmerman (McLean, Va.), and team captain Matt Skowronski (Oak Hill, Va.). The senior class combined to score 166 points last season, including 115 goals with 51 assists. Castillo led the charge with 43 goals, while Skowronski added 26. Warren and Lee each added double-digit helpers, dishing out 13 and 10 assists, respectively.

"The senior class has taken a great leadership role," said Stanicic. "Matt has done a great job for us as team captain being very inclusive of other seniors that are in his class and helping spread the leadership throughout the whole team. I am really happy about the job he has done so far.

"Jared is our power center. He spent the spring playing with a national team program, competing with some regional teams. We will count on him to provide a powerful presence. Shepherd is a great leader both in and out of the water who plays much bigger than he actually is. J.B. had some injury issues and missed part of the training, but he has come back strong. We count on his experience.

"Jack will have an important role and play significant minutes on the right side of the pool as a left-handed attacker," Stanicic added. "He is one of the smartest and most experienced players and he is a communicator and leader in the water. Ian missed the spring with us during an exchange program over in Israel. Since his return, he has done a great job in practice and is someone we will heavily rely on as a center defender.

"With Tyler, we are expecting to have a strong center presence, while Gabe is our Energizer Bunny," said Stanicic. "If for whatever reason we are flat, you can count on Gabe to go in and bring up the tempo and bring up the energy."

The trio of Taylor Bernhardt (Annapolis, Md.), Francis Kim (Houston, Texas), and Conor Sullivan (Greenfield, Mass.) comprise the Midshipmen's returning juniors. Bernhardt and Sullivan will provide added depth in the attack and center positions, while Kim returns as one of the Mids' goalies for the 2017 season.

"Taylor is another important player with a natural ability to lead in the water; he is a playmaker," Stanicic said. "Conor is another big man who is mobile and capable of positing up and provide us continuity on substitutions of lines throughout the game.

"Francis is a reliable backup and we are looking for him to continue to do that. He is a capable goalie and we have full confidence in Francis."

Sophomores Trevor Clark (San Marcos, Calif.), Nik Galvan (Henderson, Nev.), William Lowdon (Hillsborough, Calif.), Alex Piecuch (Ladera Ranch, Calif.), Nate Reiff (Wheeling, Ill.), Brandon Shields (Lake Forest, Calif.), Kevin Volkov (Freehold, N.J.), and Ronan Williams (Severna Park, Md.) look to improve off the year of experienced gained last season. Williams and Shields split time between the posts as the Midshipmen's primary goalies in 2016 as freshmen.

"It is very reliable class," said Stanicic. "They gained experience pretty quickly last year. I expect that they will continue with significant minutes like they had last year. Their minutes will continue to go up as the season goes on.

"Ronan is an experienced goalie and, last year, he nearly had a record number of saves for a goalie. Brandon is also very reliable. Putting him in the water, we are not nervous for him to do his job. If we can continue to work on our defensive game and improve in front of them, I expect that they will be even stronger this season."

Navy welcomed 10 freshmen -- Aidan Crouch (Moraga, Calif.), Jason Dompke (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Jake Haines (Ashburn, Va.), Jesse Hainze (Bellevue, Wash.), Cole Jacobs (Naperville, Ill.), Bobby Lee (Santa Ana, Calif.), Jacob Paiva (Roseville, Calif.), Andrew Shashin (Buffalo Grove, Ill.), Crawford Smith (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), and Bobby Wall (San Mateo, Calif.) -- to The Yard this season. Despite being new to the team, Stanicic expects the class to contribute mesh with the team seamlessly.

"It is an excellent recruiting class. We made it a point of playing them together without the help of upperclassmen and often against the upperclassmen. They are able to hold their own. There are several pieces in the class -- centers, center defenders, attackers, and a left-handed attacker. It is a pretty complete class. We are not nervous about them at all."



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