PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Twelve of the top collegiate men's water polo squads on the East Coast will descend on College Hill this weekend as the No. 20 Brown men's water polo team gears up to host the 2013 Collegiate Water Polo Association Eastern Championships at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center. The 20-game tournament kicks off on Friday with the fifth-seeded Bears diving into their first contest against 12th-seeded Fordham at 2 p.m.
"I think there are 12 teams that have a shot at winning this tournament," said Head Coach Felix Mercado, who led Brown to a 20-12 overall record this season. "As a fan of this team and this school, I'm excited to see how we host this big event."
CWPA LIVE STREAMING VIDEO
The CWPA will stream live all 20 games of the 2013 CWPA Championship. Fans can access the games through the CWPA Multimedia page or by clicking on the streaming link on the CWPA Championship page.
The CWPA, in partnership with Stretch Internet, is offering the streaming to the league's fans at a cost of $10 per game or $25 for a weekend pass that allows viewers to watch every game from the comfort of their home or office. In addition, each game will be archived so that fans can catch up on the action if they miss a game.
In addition to the championship coverage via the Internet, the CWPA offers DVD copies of every game at the championship on site for fan purchase. Fans attending the championship can find out more information about the DVD packages offered by the league at the concessions table during the championship.
The Bears have relied heavily on their five seniors to lead the team to another 20-plus win season.
James McNamara (Encino, Calif.), one of Brown's most versatile athletes, ranks among the squad's leaders in goals (45), assists (28), steals (40) and blocks (10) despite missing six games due to injury. Dings and dents have sidelined a handful of Bears this year, but Mercado insists Brown will battle through the adversity.
"While we're not healthy, we're as healthy as we need to be to play as well as we can," Mercado said. "Health won't be an excuse."
Goalie Walker Shockley (Diamond Bar, Calif.) has earned the start in 25 games and leads the team with 197 saves, while Chris Cullin (Danville, Calif.) is Brown's defensive specialist. Grant Villeneuve (Atherton, Calif.) can create offense and disrupt the opposition's attack with 30 assists, 33 steals and 22 draw ejections, while Eric Rob (Winnetka, Ill.) has tallied five goals and 13 steals.
"Those five have been through everything you can imagine the last four years," Mercado said. "When they first got here we didn't even have a pool on campus so it's definitely come full circle. They're going to take this opportunity to leave their mark on this program."
Alongside the seniors, a handful of underclassmen have emerged to fuel the Bears on both ends of the pool.
Junior Henry Fox (Mercer Island, Wash.), a two-time Northern Division Player of the Week this season, leads the team with 73 goals to compliment 38 steals and 22 draw ejections. Sophomore Matty Gallas (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) has handed out a team-best 49 assists on top of 35 goals and 40 steals, while classmate Will Klein (Pasadena, Calif.) is second on the squad with 49 goals and has drawn a whopping 97 ejections.
Freshmen Luke Irwin (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Warren Smith (Dallas, Texas) have combined for 64 goals and 66 draw ejections. Junior Nick Deaver (Orinda, Calif.) does it all with 39 goals, 37 assists and team-best 67 steals, and rookie Jake Wyatt (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) turned in 23 goals, 23 steals and 32 assists.
SCOUTING THE CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD
The Bears are 11-8 against teams in the championship field and are unbeaten against Fordham (3-0), Iona (2-0) and Navy (1-0) this season. Brown has taken 3-of-4 from MIT and split with Harvard (2-2) while falling to Princeton (0-1) and St. Francis Brooklyn (0-4). With Bucknell, Johns Hopkins, George Washington and Mercyhurst as the only teams Brown has yet to face, there are few secrets left among the 12 squads.
"Everyone knows what everyone else does," Mercado said of the familiar foes. "At this point, it's trying to make sure that what we do is getting better."
Brown takes on the Rams of Fordham for the second time in three weekends in a rematch of the opening round of the CWPA Northern Division Championships. The Bears dismissed Fordham 9-5 at Harvard on Nov. 9 en route to a third-place finish and automatic bid to the Eastern Championships. Brown has defeated the Rams all three times the teams have met this season, including a 17-5 triumph in regular season action on Sep. 21.
Top-seeded St. Francis Brooklyn, who Mercado calls the "clear favorite" in the tournament, presents perhaps the biggest challenge for the Bears, who suffered four tightly-contested losses to the Terriers this season by a combined six goals.
Fans can visit the 2013 CWPA Eastern Championships page on the men's water polo section of brownbears.com for results, box scores and recaps of all tournament contests. For even more updates and an inside look into the action, follow @brownwaterpolo and @CWPAWaterpolo on Twitter.