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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Waterpolo Places Seventh at Nationals

The Grinnell water polo team came up short last weekend at the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) Division III National Championship in Lancaster, Penn. where, hoping for a national title, they placed seventh.

Eight conference champions, along with the hosting school of Franklin & Marshall College, competed to determine who would earn the title of national champions.

Tim Sherwood ’16 faces two defenders in a heated match. Photograph contributed.

After trouncing the other teams in their regional division this season and securing the number one seed in the national tournament, Grinnell’s team, the Wild Turkeys, came into the tournament feeling confident.

After a first round bye, the squad faced a strong University of California, Santa Cruz team on Saturday night. While Santa Cruz received a low seed of number eight, this did not reflect the team’s capabilities, but instead the fact that Santa Cruz’s conference did not compete in the national tournament last year. So, despite their ranking, Santa Cruz was a tough team.

“We knew that it was going to be the hardest game that we’ve ever played because we knew that UC Santa Cruz was a really talented team,” said team captain Will Elsas ’14.

The Wild Turkeys fought a tough game throughout all four periods, but came up short, losing 16-11. UC Santa Cruz had a clear advantage when it came to the depth of their teams. Santa Cruz’s additional subs let their roster remain fresh throughout the game, which eventually put a toll on Grinnell’s 10-man team. The Pioneers gave up three points in the last two minutes of the game and weren’t able to overcome the deficit.

Tim Sherwood ’16, who plays center for the Wild Turkeys, had a terrific game scoring six times during the match. Due to his initial success, Sherwood soon found himself being double-teamed.

“Once other teams notice that our whole set [center], Tim [Sherwood], is really good, they double up on him and leave somebody else open on the outside. So, we have to take shots from the outside, which is farther away. They’re a little harder to make,” said Kyren DiMarzio ’17.

The Wild Turkeys have a stacked roster of good shooters including Dimarzio, Tristan Knoth ’17, Ben Weideman ’15 and Joe Lytle ’14 who were able to continue making shots for the team in order to keep them in the game until the end.

Despite the loss, many of the players still felt proud of how they performed.

“It was probably one of the best games we’ve played all year,” DiMarzio said.

Santa Cruz went on to win the tournament and Grinnell remained the only team that scored over 10 points on them.

“We came out with heads high and smiling, really proud of ourselves because we had played the best polo game that we had ever played,” Elsas said.

The following day, Grinnell played against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the seventh place game. This one played out like the regular season games for the Wild Turkeys with Grinnell dominating the entire game and coming away with an 18–3 win.

The water polo team returned to Grinnell late Sunday night feeling a little disappointed given the high expectations that came with their number one seeding, but overall felt good about how they played and are most certainly looking forward to the future.

While only losing two graduating seniors from the team, the future looks bright for the Wild Turkeys. Three of the youngest stars are first years DiMarzio, Knoth and Zach Laird ’17. All three played four years of high school water polo and have greatly contributed to the improved performance of the Wild Turkeys.

“They’ve got some serious talent,” Elsas said. “Kyren [DiMarzio], Tristan [Knoth] and our goalie, Zach [Laird], have really made this squad what it is this year.”

Considering that Grinnell’s water polo team placed fourth in their division last year and didn’t make the national championship, the Wild Turkeys have truly shown amazing improvement this year and many of the current players hope this will attract potential polo players.

“I think how well we played this year is definitely going to attract more people as a far as water polo goes,” DiMarzio said.

Water polo tends to be more popular on the West Coast, so not as many schools in the Midwest attract serious water polo players. By demonstrating that the Wild Turkeys are national contenders and have the ability to compete with solid teams like UC Santa Cruz, many high school players who previously had never thought of playing for Grinnell could end up being recruited to play quality water polo right here in Grinnell, Iowa.

The national tournament concluded the club season for the Grinnell squad, but they do hope to host a couple of tournaments in the spring. However, as many of their players are also on Grinnell’s swim team, for the time being the Wild Turkeys won’t be officially competing again until next semester.

In the mean time, they plan on continuing to practice when they can while also helping the Grinnell women’s water polo team prepare for their upcoming tournaments.

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    Donna ReichNov 9, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Great article! Would love to read more articles written by Nick Hunter.