Club Spotlight: Men’s Water Polo

The St. Mary’s Water Polo team treaded their way to four solid performances to open the 2010-2011 season. Hosting a two-day tournament that included fellow Atlantic Division members, the team faced opponents Loyola University, University of Maryland – College Park, James Madison University, and Georgetown University in the home waters of the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center.

The first match of their first tournament of the year pitted the team against Loyola. After a hard-fought match, the men found themselves trailing 5-15. Later the same day, the men competed in a tough match against Georgetown. Despite a stellar performance by goalkeeper Chris Sakowski and the skillful backhanded shots of Gabe Grace, the Seahawks were defeated 8-20.

The following morning, the ‘Hawks faced their rivals of University of Maryland and battled to a 13-17 loss. And in the final match of the tournament, the exhausted Seahawks were defeated 7-18 by James Madison.

Offensively, water polo strategy is very similar to basketball. Teams look to work the ball inside to their “hole man” for easy shots. This weekend, though, teams doubled early against the ‘Hawks.

“When teams double-team the hole, its hard to force it in there,” says senior Matt Cross. The ‘Hawks also put up a tough fight on the defensive end, having three players ejected from matches for their intense, physical play. Overall though, according to senior Alex Michelesen, “Other than the Georgetown match, the tournament was very good. We played extremely well.”

Men’s water polo is a very young program at the College. After beginning eight years ago, the Water Polo program’s numbers began to dwindle in 2004 and 2005. But in the fall of 2006, a group of 8 freshmen, Ben Garbart, Cross, Alex Michelesen, Chris Sakowski, Grace, Kalvin Gray, and Niko Pinto, revitalized the program.

During their tenure at St. Mary’s they have defeated Division I program Maryland and even qualified for the Division III National Championships in 2009.

This year, the group of eight seniors looks to continue and advance to the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Division III championships for the second consecutive year. With a group of strong young players that include sophomore Darren Leu and first-year Hattie Schiavone, a member of the women’s swimming team, they look to continue their success.

The Water Polo Club “Is always looking for new members.” This is mostly because the biggest difference and largest obstacle in their way is the number of athletes in the pool. “The better teams just have more members,” says senior Ben Garbart, “And this year we have almost as many as they do.”

The team will continue its campaign in a week at James Madison, where they will look to improve their standing against other teams in the Atlantic Division.

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