Bronx, N.Y. – (November 25, 2022) – The #16 Fordham water polo team makes their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship this weekend, after winning the MAWPC Championship on Sunday. The Rams will have a familiar foe, as Fordham (26-7) travels to #9 Princeton (26-5) for the opening round match. Princeton won the NWPC Championship for the second straight season with a 13-8 win over St. Francis Brooklyn. It is a re-match of last year’s NCAA opening round match, which the Tigers took by a 17-8 score.
The two squads also met earlier this season in a highly contested match back on September 11th at the Princeton Invitational. Fordham led by a 10-8 count after three quarters, but the Tigers rallied for five goals in the final period to win the game, 13-12.
Saturday – 12:00 PM – Fordham at Princeton – Live Video (ESPN+) | International Video Feed | NCAA Championship Central | NCAA Bracket | Follow on Twitter at @FordhamPolo
HISTORY: Fordham is looking for just its second win over Princeton over the last 30 seasons. The Rams’ lone win in that time came in 2019, as Fordham posted an 11-10 win over the Tiger at the Messmore Aquatic Center.
LAST TIME OUT (11/22): Behind four-goal performance by both George Papanikolaou and Jacopo Parrella, the Fordham water polo captured its second straight MAWPC Championship on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Bucknell Bison, 14-7, at the Col. Francis B. Messmore Aquatic Center.
Papanikolaou set the tone early for the Rams, scoring a first quarter hat trick to put the Rams up, 3-2, after one.
The Rams then netted the first three goals of the second quarter, extending the lead to 6-2 on markers by Luca Silvestri, Jacopo Parrella, and Lucas Nieto Jasny. Silvestri added a second goal late in the quarter, leaving Fordham with a 7-4 edge at halftime.
Bucknell came back to make it a 7-6 game with 2:23 left in the third quarter, but Christos Loupakis and Jason Hiremath netted back-to-back tallies to re-assert Fordham’s three-goal lead at 9-6, entering the final session.
The fourth quarter was all Rams, outscoring Bucknell, 5-1 in the frame with the final three goals coming from Parrella, while Thomas Lercari stopped a penalty shot and took away any chance of a Bison comeback.
For Fordham, Papanikolaou finished the match with four goals, three assists, and two steals, while Parrella also had four goals, two steals, and an assist. Silvestri had three markers in the game with Hiremath adding a goal, two assists, and two steals. In net, Lercari finished with 14 saves including a penalty blocks, while Riccardo DiGiuseppe added one more save in the final minute.
In a vote of the league’s coaches, Fordham’s Nir Gross was selected as the MVP of the Championship, recording six goals, two steals, and six ejections drawn over the three-game tournament. Gross was also named First Team All-Championship, along with Papanikolaou, while Lercari and Parrella were named Second Team All-Championship.
GROSS & BACHARACH WIN MAWPC MAJOR AWARDS (11/19): As the MAWPC Championship was on-going last weekend, the league has released its 2022 All-Conference Team and major award winners.
Highlighting the awards was Fordham’s Nir Gross, who was selected as the MAWPC’s Most Valuable Player, while Rams’ head coach Brian Bacharach was named Coach of the Year.
Additionally, Gross, Thomas Lercari, and George Papanikolaou were named First Team All-MAWPC, while Lucas Nieto Jasny and Luca Silvestri were named Honorable Mention All-MAWPC.
Gross, a nominee for the Cutino Award as USA Water Polo Player of the Year, has had an outstanding year for the Rams, after joining the team from the 2022 European Championship, where he played for Israel. He appeared in 26 games during the regular season for Fordham, posting 41 goals, 21 assists, 17 steals, and five blocks. He also drew a team-high 76 exclusions and 19 penalties, while being named MAWPC Player of the Week once on the year.
Lercari was a three-time MAWPC Defensive Player of the Week this season. In just over 100 quarters of action, he became just the third Fordham goalkeeper to reach 300 saves in a season at 301, joining Noah LeBeau (311 – 2014) and Bailey O’Mara (351 – 2019). He also tagged on 21 assists, 27 steals, and five penalty blocks in the regular season.
Papanikolaou earned his second straight First Team All-League honor, after leading the Rams in assists (81) and points (128), both of which were career-highs. He added 47 goals, 44 steals, and a team-best 12 field blocks. He earned MAWPC Player of the Week honors once during the year.
Nieto Jasny saw his overall game improve in his second season to earn Honorable Mention accolades, recording 48 goals, 50 assists, 98 points, and 28 steals. He posted seven hat tricks on the year, highlighted by a five-goal game against Iona, while having at least three points in 19 of 30 games.
In his first season with the Rams, Silvestri picked up three MAWPC weekly awards, receiving Player of the Week once and Rookie of the Week twice. He was limited to 21 games on the year, but was still extremely productive, netting 48 goals, which was tied for second on the team, to go with 18 assists, and 26 steals.
Bachrach received his second consecutive MAWPC Coach of the Year award, after leading the team to an undefeated conference season at 16-0 and the top seed at the MAWPC Championship. The Rams were ranked in the top 20 all season long under Bacharach’s guidance, while ending the regular season with a 23-7 record.
SPREADING OUT THE OFFENSE: With over 500 goals scored this season, it’s no surprise that seven players score at least 45 goals on the season. Sophomore Jacopo Parrella leads the team with 78 markers on the year, followed by Lucas Nieto Jasny (55), George Papanikolaou (53), Christos Loupakis (52), Luca Silvestri (52), Balazs Berenyi (51), and Nir Gross (47).
RAMSES CHALLENGE: As a part of a new fundraising challenge this season, fans can pledge support for the team in the Ramses Challenge for each goal the water polo team scores this season, which currently stands at 519. Be a part of the challenge by clicking here. For any questions regarding the Ramses Challenge, please reach out to Director of Athletic Development, Kara Field, at [email protected]
WHAT’S NEXT: The winner of the Fordham-Princeton match moves on in the NCAA Championship to face USC on December 1st at the Spieker Aquatics Complex in Berkeley, California.