Waterpolo Splits Close Games with Deerfield and Exeter; Team Takes PEA to Overtime But Falls Just Short in Final Seconds

The Boys’ Water Polo team pulled out yet another victory last Saturday with a nail-biting 10-9 win over Deerfield, extending their unbeaten streak to 11 in a row. On Wednesday, Andover suffered its second loss of the season to Exeter 12-10 in overtime. In the closest game against Exeter in ages, Andover barely fell after being outscored 2-0 in overtime. With a full crowd of parents and fans, Andover faced Deerfield in a rematch of the opening game of the season, which the Big Blue won easily 12-4. In the first quarter of play, Andover’s offense overpowered Deerfield and scored five goals, three coming from Captain Howie Kalter ’07 and a goal each from Ryan Ferguson ’07 and Andrew Faulkner ’07. Goalkeeper Billy Draper ’07 anchored a strong defense, and played consistently the entire game. Through the next two-and-a-half quarters, Deerfield surprised the Andover squad with extremely physical play, and the Big Blue’s offense struggled. With 3:30 left in the fourth quarter, Deerfield fought back and tied the game at 8-8. With only 1:20 left in the game, Deerfield converted a penalty shot and took its first lead of the afternoon, 9-8. Kalter immediately responded to being behind on Andover’s next possession and nailed a perimeter shot to tie the game at nine. With the clock quickly ticking down, the Andover defense made a important defensive stop in the shallow end of the pool, and quickly turned around with an offensive strike. With the game on the line and only 13 seconds left until the end of regulation, Scott McColl ’07 converted under pressure, scoring off of a blocked shot. Peter Smith ’07 then locked up the victory with a steal in the final three seconds. Billy Draper ’07 was particularly pleased with the Andover comeback: “It was the most exciting game I have ever played in, in any sport. I know we shouldn’t have gotten ourselves into such a close game against Deerfield, but the fact that we came out and won from behind shows a lot about our team and our eagerness to win. We brought it home on that one.” Phil Meyer ’08 also commented on the team’s performance: “Early on, we had no trouble scoring goals, but that became much more difficult as the Deerfield defense adjusted later in the game… Deerfield’s only had one seriously threatening player, and it proved difficult to control him when the game got tense.” Coach David Fox was especially impressed with his team’s accomplishment: “I have been particularly proud to have heard from a variety of students, parents, and colleagues that they were so impressed with how the team managed to rebound from such a colossal failing throughout most of the game. We led 6-0 at one point, so to find ourselves down one with 1:20 left in the game and score two goals was impressive.” Andover’s final game of the regular season proved to be one of the program’s best performances in a long time. Kalter opened the scoring in the first quarter, but Exeter retaliated immediately and the first quarter ended with the score and the play almost even. But in the second quarter, Exeter capitalized on weak PA play. PEA was up 6-2 going into halftime with numerous goals from the Exies’ star two-meter player. However, the Big Blue came back fighting in the third quarter. The PA defense was impenetrable. The smart and efficient play was led by Rush Martin ’07 as the team adapted its defense to better oppose the Exeter offense. Coupled with a solid attack, Andover evened the score heading into the final quarter. Though PA finally grabbed the lead, Exeter responded and brought the game into overtime, where Exeter capitalized on some of PA’s minor mistakes to take the match. Coach Fox has high hopes for his team and has recognized what Andover needs in order to be successful in tournament play: “As for the tournament, I am pleased that we have a bye into the semifinal of the New England Championship, in which we will face Loomis. Our goals for the tournament are to play the best water polo we can play, to play the same regardless of whether we are up, down, or tied, and to finally put all the pieces together in two consecutive games: playing with smarts, skills, and spirit.”