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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s water polo dominates Div. I opponents

John Brady
Ben Weideman ’15 attempts a shot in last weekend’s game. Photo by John Brady.

The men’s water polo team hosted the first tournament of the season last weekend at the Russell K. Osgood pool. The team won all four games it played, tying the squad with Illinois State University for the top ranking in the Great Plains Division.

“This weekend we did a really good job of keeping our morale up, even when the score was getting close. We were communicating really well and did a good job of making substitutions,” said co-captain Ben Weideman ’15. “We made the shots [and] defensive plays that needed to be made and put ourselves in a position to play well.”

On Saturday, the team handily beat Marquette University 17-4. The men followed up later that day with a victory by forfeit against the University of Minnesota. On Sunday, the team began the day with a 12-5 win over the University of Nebraska. In the team’s final match against Iowa State University, which was also the most competitive game of the tournament, the Pioneers triumphed 14-11.

“We had played a preseason tournament the weekend before at Monmouth College, which was really challenging,” Weideman said. “Playing some tough games there got us in a position where we knew how to play as a team for this competition.”

Last season, the Wild Turkeys easily won the Heartland Division, which is composed of Division III schools similar in size to Grinnell. To face tougher competition, the team decided to switch Conferences this year. As a result, they now compete against Division I teams.

“We wanted to show ourselves to be a competitive team in this new Conference,” said co-captain Tim Sherwood ’16. “A lot of these bigger teams might not expect much from Grinnell College, so we wanted to go out there and play well to establish ourselves as a team that is going to be competitive for the championship.”

Ben Weideman ’15 attempts a shot in last weekend’s game. Photo by John Brady.
Ben Weideman ’15 attempts a shot in last weekend’s game. Photo by John Brady.

Captains Weideman, Sherwood, and Austin Cote ’15 are in the unique role of serving as both athletes and coaches since the team does not have an official coach. The team is also relying on its strong returning members, including Tristan Knoth ’17, Zach Laird ’17, Kyren DiMarzio ’17 and Will Gottlieb ’15 to continue its winning streak.

“We have been putting together a more systematic approach to our practices,” Weideman said. “The biggest challenge is that we have to organize and coach ourselves. But, as cheesy as it sounds, it’s an exercise in self-governance for our team. It gives us a lot of freedom.”

And last weekend’s victories were proof that the self-governance is working out successfully.

“This weekend, we showed that we were faster than a lot of the teams in the water, which is definitely an advantage,” Weideman said. “It helps that we draw a lot of swimmers from the swim team.”

It certainly does not hurt to have talented athletes in accomplishing the team’s goals.

“A lot of swimmers don’t play any other sports. Water polo is a completely different kind of athletic event,” Sherwood admitted. “Last year, we got a ton of new people who were really talented. Having the talent made us want to work harder, like a renewed energy, renewed optimism.”

Looking forward, the team is gearing up to play its next tournament on Oct. 4 and 5 at Iowa State, where it will face last year’s Great Plains conference champions, Illinois State, for the first time.

“We want to win all of our games next tournament and then win Conference, which will be hard because there are some good teams we haven’t played yet,” Sherwood said.

Despite the tough challenges ahead, the team has even loftier goals.

“The schools we’re playing are 40 times the size of us, in terms of students and resources. Grinnell is a really small school out in the middle of Iowa that shouldn’t be that good at water polo,” Sherwood said. “If we win Conference, maybe we’ll go to DI nationals. It’s really cool being that underdog from a small school, especially if we win.”

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