Terriers look to go ‘step further’ in 2019
SFC water polo squad eager to chase first NCAA bid in six years
It was six seasons ago that the St. Francis Brooklyn water polo team last dived into the pool with the country’s best in pursuit of a national championship.
Terriers Head Coach Bora Dimitrov hopes that drought will end later this year.
“I’m truly looking forward to our 2019 season,” Dimitrov said after revealing SFC Brooklyn’s new season slate, which will kick off in earnest on Sept. 7 with an opening match against California Baptist during the Bruno Invitational on the campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
SFC stunned UC-San Diego in the opening match of the national championships back in 2013 before being edged by top-seeded USC in the Final Four that year.
The Terriers, despite fielding one of the most diverse and talent-laden teams in the country, have since failed to return to the national spotlight, something Dimitrov hopes will change with the coming of the new campaign.
“Our schedule is pretty much full, and we have more games than last year,” noted Dimitrov, who saw his team go 9-15 in 2018, failing yet again to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
The 29-game slate, which features 19 non-conference matches and 10 Northeast Water Polo Conference tilts, will also see the Terriers take on McKendree, Staten Island rival Wagner and Bucknell during the season-opening Bruno tourney.
The Terriers, eager to boost their performance before diving into NWPC action, will compete in five non-conference tournaments overall this year, including the Tiger Invitational at Princeton from Sept. 13-15 and the Bison Invitational at Bucknell from Sept. 21-22.
League play begins on Oct. 2, when SFC heads to Iona.
The Terriers will host four consecutive NWPC matches at the SFC Aquatic Center on Remsen Street thereafter, including an Oct. 12 showdown with reigning conference champion Princeton, which beat Dimitrov’s team in the league semifinals last November.
“This will be the key for our team, and we plan to use every single game to develop, learn and grow,” he said.
“I am very excited to see our newcomers in action, and I hope that with the good work and proper mindset this season, we can go a step further.”
The Terriers will get several key tune-ups before vying for the NWPC Tournament crown.
They will resume tournament play at the Crimson Invitational at Harvard from Oct. 19-20 and hit the West Coast for the Bronco Invitational, hosted by Santa Clara University, from Oct. 25-27.
A four-game road trip from Nov. 2-Nov. 9, featuring matchups with MIT, Harvard, Brown and Princeton, will toughen Dimitrov’s team for the NWPC Championships on the campus of MIT from Nov. 22-24.
In local pro sports news, the Brooklyn Cyclones wasted a gem of an effort by starting pitcher Garrison Bryant and the first career three-hit game by fourth-round pick Jake Mangum Sunday afternoon with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Connecticut Tigers at Dodd Stadium.
The Baby Bums, who had won six of their previous seven games, held a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the ninth when reliever Brian Metoyer, who tossed a scoreless eighth following Bryant, surrendered a pair of runs, including Eric De La Rosa’s walk-off fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop.
Bryant, the Mets’ 36th-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft out of Clearwater, Florida, was denied his third win of the summer despite his best outing of the campaign.
The 6’3” right-hander from New Hampshire yielded a run on six hits with no walks and four strikeouts over seven scintillating innings, leaving the mound with a one-run lead thanks to RBI doubles by William Reyes and Raul Beracierta in the first and fifth innings, respectively.
Mangum, an outfielder serving as the team’s designated hitter Sunday, led off the game with a single before scoring on Reyes’ double, ripped another base hit on a line drive to left field in the third inning and smashed a one-out double to center in the ninth.
The 23-year-old Mississippi State alum got off to a slow start after finishing his final collegiate campaign with the Bulldogs, but he is batting .306 (11-for-36) over his last 10 games, boosting his season average to .258 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs.
Mangum batted .358 with a .417 on-base percentage and .884 on-base-plus-slugging average during his senior campaign at MSU, showing off the type of leadoff skills that have placed him at the top of Brooklyn manager Edgardo Alfonzo’s lineup during most of his stint here on Coney Island.
The Mets grabbed Mangum after first-rounder Brett Baty and high-schoolers Josh Wilf and Matthew Allan last month during the draft, hoping his production in college carries over to the pro game, something that has begun to happen on the short-season Class A level of late for the centerfielder.
“What we’ve tried to do the last couple of years is take ceiling players, players that we believe have a chance to have impact,” said Mets Scouting Director Marc Tramuta after selecting Mangum.
“These are players that are young, that are somewhat advanced; they already bring those tools to the table with performance as well. So, we feel very good.”
The Cyclones had their road-trip finale in Connecticut washed out by rain Monday but were scheduled to open a three-game series with Tri-City at MCU Park on Tuesday night.
Brooklyn has a modest 9-8 mark at home thus far this season but went 5-1 in its last homestand along Surf Avenue.
The Cyclones (20-15), trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2012, enter their series with the ValleyCats just one game behind first-place Aberdeen in the hunt for the McNamara Division crown.
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