PASADENA (Aug. 31, 2018) – The circumstances surrounding the Caltech men's water polo team's upcoming 2018 season are not unlike many of the Beaver teams this fall, with breakthrough success from 2017 hoping to be expanded upon. For men's water polo, breakthrough success came in the form of three wins over SCIAC rival Occidental College, including the team's first SCIAC victory since 2001. A tremendous freshman class had a lot to do with the turnaround, but this year the team is down just one senior and will have the opportunity to take its water polo game to the next level under the tutelage of third-year Head Coach Jon Bonafede.
"I think we've got more to lose this season than ever before, but that's come with the success," Bonafede said. "We still have a young team and I think we've established ourselves and really started to hit our stride towards the end of the year. With that comes more responsibility and I want to make sure that we don't lose sight of what DIII athletics is all about: building strong leaders who are ready to take on and collaborate with the rest of the world. That's so much greater than winning and as great as it feels to win our goals extend far beyond that."
Each of last season's key cogs will return to the pool once again this year. Sophomore leading goal scorer Steven Csaposs (Davis, Calif. / Davis) is once again expected to be a presence down the middle and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. The center led the Beavers last season with 61 goals while drawing 32 exclusions but had a lot of help particularly from his classmates. Sophomore Rahul Arun (Buffalo Grove, Ill. / Adlai E Stevenson) set the team's single-season steals record as a rookie and otherwise contributed in every offensive facet as one of the team's most efficient shooters, while sophomore Alex Janosi (Ann Arbor, Mich. / Dexter) served in a similar capacity while also dominating on sprints (94-for-98). Another sophomore, Neil Sanderson (Laguna Beach, Calif. / Winchester) really came on late in the year to finish fourth on the team in goals (35) and classmate John Wang (Louisville, Ky. / Phillips Exeter Academy) also chipped in, particularly in the event of an injured starter.
The Beavers will also have two of their senior players plugged back into key roles. Driver Eshan Govil (Redwood City, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) and attacker Charles Ross (Wexford, Pa. / North Allegheny) will bring an experience edge to the team and contribute each in their own unique ways. While Govil's strength is setting the table for the team's offensive playmakers while pitching in with goals when necessary, Ross is a converted goalkeeper whose shot, at times is without equal among the players in this group, reaching six-plus goals on multiple occasions last year.
Goalkeeping duties will be split by junior Bradley Justice (El Cajon, Calif. / Grossmont) and returning senior Sharuya Gilani (Chicago, Ill. / Adlai Stevenson), and similar to last year, Bonafede plans to take their playing time one quarter at a time, riding the hot hand when necessary.
"We have a lot of things we can do," Bonafede said. "We're not just going to be a one-dimensional team, and in fact, we're not just going to be a two-dimensional team and it's a credit to the players returning and the players coming and their ability to learn and master our offensive and defensive sets."
Each of the freshmen brings something different to the table. The best blend of size, skill, and experience comes in the form of Alex Wang (Saratoga, Calif. / The Harker School) from The Harker School in Saratoga. Another versatile option in the Caltech lineup, Wang will have the opportunity to contribute immediately and blossom as the season progresses just as last year's crop of freshmen did. Austin Harvard (Lake Forest, Calif. / El Toro) brings some competitive water polo experience from El Toro in Orange County and has already begun to gel with the returners while Randall Pulido (Austin, Texas / Westlake) brings with him an athletic background as a former wrestler and has shown rapid improvement in practice.
"Alex is another versatile, dynamic, 'can do whatever you need' type of player, which you can't have enough of," Bonafede said. "His experience will help him integrate well with those who will be playing a lot of minutes and I'm excited to see him develop. Harvard and Pulido have each have a good athletic base and their skills will complement us well once they get the water polo conditioning down."
Sophomore Andy Rothstein (Potomac, Md. / Winston Churchill) will also join the Beavers this year and though new to water polo, medaled at last year's SCIAC Swimming & Diving Championships. While developmental players are not new to Bonafede-coached water polo teams at Caltech, there is perhaps no better setting to learn the game than among this group of players. With all of the team's top roles near solidified, there is less pressure on newcomers to have to play meaningful minutes right out of the gate and thus can be eased into action as ready.
"For the few players that we have developed, this is a very collaborative group," Bonafede said. "Everybody's there to help and get the new players up to speed quicker, so there's a real buy-in in that sense."
Bonafede and the Beavers will open the season on Saturday, Sept. 1 at the Chaffey College Tournament with matches against host Chaffey and Palomar College.