With two seconds left on the clock, Nick Faulkner ’16 launched the ball straight up in the air. By the time the ball had returned to the pool at the end of its fall, it was too late for Phillips Exeter Academy. Andover Boys Water Polo had made history, winning 6-5 and earning the team’s first ever New England water polo title.
With the score tied at the end of the third quarter, Co-Captain Travis Bouscaren ’14 put Andover up 5-4 with nailed a shot after just 16 seconds of play in the fourth quarter.
With just over a minute left in the clock, Bouscaren connected with fellow Co-Captain Andrew Yang ’14 as he sprinted up the pool. At the five-meter mark, Yang rocketed a shot past the Exeter goalie.
Exeter responded with a goal seconds later, but in the last minute, goalkeeper Rome Arnold ’14 came up with a speedy save and Andover was able to retain possession to guarantee the 6-5 win.
“It was an amazing experience to win the Championships for the first time. Although we were the underdog in the tournament, we still knew that this was our best chance to win the Championships, so we all put pressure on ourselves to perform and it ended up working out,” said Bouscaren.
Recording 20 saves and an 80 percent save percentage in the championship game, Arnold was named to All-Tournament Goalie despite playing through intense pain.
As Andover had lost to Exeter twice during the regular season, Arnold adjusted his goalkeeping strategy accordingly.
“I basically just told myself that if I could put a hand on the ball, I would not let it in the goal. I had slightly tweaked my strategy for saves, putting way more pressure on my legs and taking it away from my shoulders, but it made my hands significantly quicker,” said Arnold.
“It also resulted in some of the worst leg cramps I’ve ever had, starting about 30 seconds into the fourth quarter. I even cramped up again while walking over to receive my All-Tournament Trophy for Goalie,” continued Arnold.
“In the Exeter game, we just relaxed and played a tight press defensive which was a different strategy from last time we played them. We trusted our two-meter defense and just tried to press the perimeter which created steals and fast breaks,” said Bouscaren.
Bouscaren received tournament’s most valuable player award as a result of his 15 goals spanning all three games this weekend. Yang and Faulkner were also chosen for the All-Tournament Team.
“Winning MVP was extraordinary. Although the team championship means so much more, I was thrilled to be recognized as the MVP of the tournament, but I was definitely more excited to win as a team,” said Bouscaren.
“We had nothing to lose so we played very fluidly and without the pressure that Brunswick or Exeter may have faced as the number one seed or the defending champions,” said Yang.
The team first beat Loomis 12-10 on Friday; Bouscaren tallied nine goals in the game. Then, Andover toppled number one seed Brunswick 10-8. Andover’s win over Exeter was the first in five years.
“Going into the tournament, we knew we were the underdogs, and really embracing that mindset allowed us to play two of the best games we have played all season,” said Yang.
Bouscaren said, “Leading up to our Loomis game, we had a couple tough losses, so I knew that I had to lead the team in that game to regain our confidence, and after that everyone stepped up in the next games.”
The thrill and anticipation of the fans brought energy to the team. With the hope of advancing and possibly playing Exeter, the intensity was high.
“In the Brunswick game, at around halftime, all of the Andover fans arriving on the buses piled into the stadium and cheered us to victory,” said Bouscaren. “I have never played a game where there was that much intensity, not only by the fans, but because of the fans we all picked up on their excitement after big plays.”
Although the crowd played a major role in propelling the team to victory, there is no replacement for an inspiring coach.
“Coach Fox deserves full and total credit for our performance. He managed to keep us relaxed yet excited going into the game,” said Arnold.
“His greatest contribution, however, was a timeout call early in the game when we were down just 2-0. The timeout let us recover our strength, and the short speech he gave quickly re-inspired each and every one of us to push ourselves to do anything to win,” Arnold continued.
“This year we focused more on strategy and actual play rather than conditioning that we’d been focusing on in previous years,” said Chris Li ’15 who has played on the team since his Junior year. “Basically we were more prepared to play in a game. We also only graduated two Seniors last year, so we had a more experienced roster.”
With the win, the 2013 season Boys Water Polo team will have its name in the record books.
“We just gave every ounce of energy and excitement, and over the course of 24 hours we pulled out three straight victories, two of which were seeding upsets. I can’t describe how proud I am to be a part of this team,” said Marc Sevastopoulo ’15.