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The Scarlet & Black

Men’s Water Polo club places fifth at Division III Nationals

After a solid season, the Grinnell Men’s Water Polo Club team rounded out their play with a top finish at nationals. This past weekend, the Wild Turkeys traveled to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME and competed in the 2009 Division III National Collegiate Club Championship.

The seventh seeded Wild Turkeys faced third seeded Tufts University in the first round. The Wild Turkeys dominated the first period 3-1, but Tufts soon overcame the deficit and overwhelmed the Wild Turkeys.  Alex Phillips ’12 and Sam Sherwood ’12 each scored two goals and Max Stephenson ’10, Patrick Thomas ’10 and Sinan Ozer ’11 all added one. Goalie Jon Willuhn ’10 secured five saves, but it was not enough to prevent the eventual champions Tufts from winning 9-7. 

Ian Warlick ’10 acknowledged that the Turkey offense could be muddled at times this year.

 “A lot of times our problem was just not communicating well and figuring where the ball needed to go,” Warlick said. “So, against Tufts we saw it break down.”

In the second round of contests, the Wild Turkeys rallied to shut down Grove City College for a 9-5 victory. Phillips scored five goals in the first period, Thomas scored two, with the other goals by Sherwood and Stephenson. The Wild Turkeys held a clear advantage with their strong defense evidenced by Willuhn’s four saves.

“We were definitely down after the Tufts game, and we needed to the Groves game as kind of a pick-me-up,” Beck Ringdahl-Mayland ’13 said.  “We played a lot better as a team. It really gave us some good feeling going into the Bowdoin game. Everything just worked a lot better in the Grove City game, because [we] just passed the ball around a lot more”

In their third and final matchup in the tournament, the Wild Turkeys dominated host Bowdoin College 10-8 for fifth place. Phillips again led scoring with six goals, Thomas two, and one by Stephenson and Ozer each. Willuhn again had four saves.

After scoring 13 goals, Phillips’ key performance earned him the distinction of second Team on 2009 Division III National Collegiate Club Championship All-Tournament Team.

The team’s fifth place finish also marked the fourth time in Grinnell water polo history that the team finished in the Top Five teams at the Division III Club Championship. The Turkey’s have now made the National tournament for the last nine years. In 2007, the team finished second, but last year the team finished sixth. This year’s fifth place finish reflected the team’s confidence this year, and gives the Turkeys a starting point on which to build next year.

“We definitely grew a lot from that time to Nationals and I definitely could tell,” Ringdahl-Mayland said. “We are losing a lot of strong seniors, we are definitely going to miss them, but I think we do have a lot of strength.”

It was an easy road for the Turkeys this season although there were certainly some early bumps. The Wild Turkeys lost three out of their first four games to strong teams but they finished second in the Heartland Conference to make their third consecutive appearance at Nationals. With the season now finished, the Wild turkeys look to continue to build a strong program and despite many key players graduating, the team remains confident. 

 “I think our team going to be competitive in next year in the conference for sure, and definitely could get another bid to Nationals.” Warlick said.

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