Toronto – Six squads are heading to University of Toronto’s Varsity Pool for the final championship of the fall, as the Blues get set to defend their back-to-back men’s water polo titles when they host the rest of the provincial field this weekend.
Not only will the hosts be looking to complete the three-peat on their home turf, they’ll be vying for their 12th provincial title in the last 17 years. The Blues will enter championship play on the back of a terrific 2018 campaign, wherein they amassed a perfect 10-0 record against OUA competition, while outscoring their opponents 99-43 in the process. Included in Toronto’s 10 victories were three wins over the Carleton Ravens; two teams that have met in the last seven OUA championship gold medal matches.
Two-time OUA all-star Euan Scoffield (Ottawa, Ont.) is certainly a player to watch this weekend for Toronto. The fourth-year veteran has continued his stellar play in 2018 and earned UofT Invitational MVP honours after leading the Blues with eight goals in four games. Similarly, third-year standout Marko Avdalovic (Toronto, Ont.) was named tournament MVP at the Carleton Invitational after potting seven goals two weeks ago in Ottawa.
Entering the championship as the No. 1 seed, the Varsity Blues will earn a first-round bye, advancing to play either the Western Mustangs or McMaster Marauders. Both of these squads will be looking to crack the podium at the 2018 edition of the event, after finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, a year ago.
For Western, they’ll turn to Victor Brancus (Toronto, Ont.) to lead their top-three aspirations. In his rookie season a year ago, Brancus earned an OUA all-star nod and he’ll be looking to duplicate the success he found in his banner season debut a year ago against the same Hamilton squad. The freshman was instrumental in helping his purple ponies advance to the semifinals, scoring five goals against McMaster to punch their ticket and, ultimately, secure the fourth-place finish.
Alongside the second-year star will be veteran and team captain Maksym Koval (Mississauga, Ont.), who has been the Mustangs’ top scorer this season and remains an offensive threat each time the ball is in his hands.
Hoping to reverse this head-to-head result from a year ago, McMaster will also turn to an experienced leader to guide their efforts in the water. Colin Colterjohn (Hamilton, Ont.), now in his fifth year with the maroon machine, is the team’s leading scorer, and is a former member of the youth national team that featured for Canada at the 2017 Summer Universiade. The experience and leadership that Colterjohn brings to the squad is instrumental for the Marauders, who enter this year’s championship as a young, transitioning team; one that hasn’t claimed a provincial banner since 2001.
Another team looking to end a lengthy championship drought is the Queen’s Gaels, who enter as the reigning bronze medalists. Despite their podium finish from a season ago, however, the Tricolour haven’t tasted the top spot since 2003. Gold is on their minds heading into the weekend though, and they’ll turn to a mature group to help lead them to victory.
Alex Cox-Twardowski (Montreal, Que.) is the centre of the Gaels team defence and the vocal leader in the water and at team meetings. The third-year player has won many national club championships during his career and has played on a variety of national teams, even attending the 2009 FISU Games with Team Canada, and his experience will be key for Queen’s at Varsity Pool.
Also aiming to play a leading role for the Gaels is Trevor Robinson (Scarborough, Ont.), who is now in his fifth year of action. He has been a mainstay between the pipes for the Kingston squad during his career, having been named the OUA Most Valuable Goalie several times, and currently serves as assistant captain for the team. And it is players like the aforementioned pair that are providing the mentorship that Queen’s is looking for to take their competitive group to the next level and earn the school’s second banner in program history.
The other quarterfinal sees the two schools from the nation’s capital going head-to-head, and while they will both be looking to advance to the semifinal round, they’ll do so having seen varying degrees of success in the pool.
Carleton, who comes in as the No. 3 seed, will look to get their championship train back on track after dropping the last two to Toronto. The Ravens are no stranger to hoisting the Hershon Trophy, as they have done so three times over the last seven years, and after once again losing some veteran players, they’ll turn to the likes of Mazen Abouelata (Cairo, Egypt), Christopher Callard (Beaconsfield, Que.), and Luke Evans (Toronto, Ont.) among other fourth-year standouts to carry the club to the success they’ve become quite familiar with at the provincial finale.
The Ottawa Gee-Gees, meanwhile, will look to turn their fortunes around after another tough go at last year’s event, which saw them place sixth out of six teams, and they’ll need to do so as the sixth seed once again this weekend.
The quarterfinal matches will kick off the championship festivities on Friday, November 30 at 7:15 pm, before the semifinals take to the water on Saturday, and the medal matches wrap up play on Sunday at Varsity Pool, not only ending this particular championship, but putting a feather in the cap of the entire fall banner season.