The CWPA Northern Division might be the most compelling on the NCAA level this season as there is no true favorite. Any of five teams could emerge as champion and grab a top two seed going into Easterns. Quietly in Cambridge, Massachusetts resides one of the teams in that chase and quite possibly the biggest sleeper in the entire East. The Engineers of MIT return the most experienced roster in the North and are primed to make this season a special one. People forget that MIT had this year’s preseason Eastern favorite in Princeton tied 13-13 with 1:44 left in the fourth quarter at Easterns before succumbing.
MIT is coached by former Redlands great Adam Foley. Foley came to MIT after serving as an assistant coach for his alma mater. He was an outstanding player for the Bulldogs of Redlands as he was the Division III Player of the Year as a senior. His career rankings at Redlands are astounding as he left the program ranked seventh all-time in goals (111), fifth in assists (103), third in steals (202) and fifth in ejections drawn (100).
Prior to the start of this season, I got a chance to sit down with Coach Foley and we discussed his squad and their championship hopes. Below is our interview.
In looking at the CWPA Northern Division, an outstanding case can be made that MIT has the most proven performers returning. What does your squad have to do to win the North?
The North will be an interesting division to watch this year; any team can step up and make some noise. For us, we have a favorable conference schedule with home games against Brown, Iona, and Fordham. If we put ourselves in good position going into the Northern Championships, then it is all about who is the hottest at the end of the season. I think we are lucky to have experienced players who understand that water polo is a game about limiting mistakes, and if we can do that then we can play with anyone at the end of the year.
Devin Lewis is an outstanding all-around player who seems to be getting better each season. What makes him the great player that he is?
Over Devin's career he has been asked to fill a lot of different roles, which has allowed him to really round out his game. Additionally, he is probably one of the most powerful athletes I have seen in the water. He has the hands to finish, but it is really his leg and core strength that wears people down.
John Preis is another underrated cog in your attack. Can you tell us a little bit about what makes him so effective?
I think most people think of Preis as a center who relies on strength, but it is his understanding of positioning and quickness that makes him so effective. When he sets himself up and the ball enters, he typically gets a shot or a move to the goal before the defender has a chance to react. Because of that he has an incredibly high rate of success in regards to shots taken from two meters.
Columbus Leonard really came on down the stretch for your team between the pipes. What are you expecting out of him this fall?
Bus had an interesting year for us. He came in after taking a little less than two years off from water polo due to an elbow injury while playing baseball in his junior year of high school. We made the decision to go with him early to get him as much experience as possible. I think if you asked him, he felt like he ended the season well, but that he is still looking to take a step up after
getting a full year of polo under his belt.
MIT is clearly one of the most prestigious places of higher learning in our country. How difficult or easy does that make it from a recruiting perspective?
As a coach, the recruiting process is greatly simplified at MIT. MIT is such a unique fit for student-athletes that I really have to wait and see who shows interest in our program and contacts me. From there most of the process is about dispelling the myths that are associated with a place like MIT. Then finally admissions... who gets in is less clear cut than you might think.
With that our interview ended. Four of the top five teams in the CWPA’s preseason poll reside in the Southern Division and I have read the banter about the South being superior to the North entering this campaign. However, I believe the North has better teams than they are being given credit for. MIT is one of those teams that feels undervalued as they return plenty of firepower. Keep an eye on the Engineers as they look ready to make this campaign a special one