Coming off an intense and productive week of practices, the boys of Andover Water Polo were itching to show their stuff. Instead, they came out all scratched up. Andover squared off with two ferocious squads in the Suffield Tigers and NMH Hoggers. Despite its aggressive attempt to overtake two strong opponents, the Boys in Blue went 0 for 2 on the weekend, dropping both matches. The team started its day last Saturday with high hopes, aiming to capture what they believed to be two easy wins. After watching the first match of the day, Suffield vs. NMH, in the Suffield/NMH/Andover round robin, the boys felt even more confident. However, once the matches began the Boys in Blue found themselves struggling against their physical opponents, stranded in the water and unable to draw a foul in order to run an offensive play. The Northfield Mount Hermon Hoggers and Suffield Tigers seemed at home within this dog-eat-dog style of play. Andover had no choice but to bite back with the same kicking, grabbing, pinching, and punching that was being handed to them. What ensued were the roughest games of the season, complete with face shoving, jaw kicking, and a few elbows in the mouth. Though the boys put in their best effort, their opponents were simply more aggressive than they were. In its first game against Suffield, the PA team held the score at 0-0 through to halftime. Then in the third quarter, Suffield scored twice, once on a man-up situation and once again with a well-placed shot from the perimeter. The Andover boys quickly responded to these goals with one of their own, as Jamie Neuwirth ’06 brought the boys within striking distance. Pressing on offense, hoping to make a come back in the fourth quarter, PA let up on defense and allowed two more goals to get by. The boys did add one of their only, but Robert Gucwa ’04’s late fourth quarter score would not be enough to catch the Tigers. After such a disheartening loss, the boys had just a few minutes to recuperate and prepare to face off against NMH. The PA boys were determined to win at least one game before the day was over. The 2003 Northfield Mount Hermon Water Polo team this year boasts some primetime players, including an All-American hole set and a very experienced lefty. The combination of the left-handed shooter and the All-American hole set proved to be challenging obstacles for Andover to face. The strong NMH team took the Phillips squad by surprise, as the NMH Hoggers do not usually field a strong water polo team. Despite Andover’s aggressive and well-executed defense, NMH soon piled up a sizeable lead. The painful play continued as NMH scored six unanswered goals. Finally, in the last minutes of the fourth quarter, Paull Randt ’04 managed a breakaway with an opponent close behind. Randt spun his rival more than 360 degrees before triumphantly blasting the ball past the NMH goalie. Despite the day’s two losses, goalie Jed Kelly ’04 had a solid showing. Kelly has been in the cage for only one season, and already he is notably one of the best goalies in the entire league. His expert timing and gutsy style has stopped countless shots and breakaway attempts. PA water polo continued to work as hard as ever this past week during practices and looks to beat Choate in the home game this weekend. Coach Chad Stern remarked after the games on Saturday, “We did everything correctly except to put the ball in the back of the goal.”
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