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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Water polo makes a splash at nationals

As other students enjoyed the last days of their fall break, members of the Grinnell College club water polo team, The Wild Turkeys, rose early last Friday morning to catch their flight to Connecticut. They attended the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) national championship tournament, which took place Oct. 27-28 at Wesleyan University.

The team played three matches: against Tufts University, which they lost 16-7; against the Coast Guard Academy, which they lost 20-8; and against Carnegie Mellon University, which they lost 13-10. The Wild Turkeys finished in eighth place, their lowest placing in program history.

Although collegiate water polo operates on both a varsity and club level, varsity teams are few, according to men’s captain Alex Lavery ’21. The CWPA organizes men’s club team into 20 geographic divisions and the women’s teams into 15. Grinnell is a member of the Heartland Division, along with other Midwestern institutions like Carleton College and Knox College. One team from each division competes in the CWPA national championship.

Earlier in the season, the team played in two regional tournaments, then won against Macalester College in the divisional championship game.

Women’s Co-Captain Olivia Konieczny ’21, said that club sports differ from varsity sports in that students can choose their own level of involvement.

“You put into it what you want to; it’s self-driven,” said Konieczny. “We don’t have coaches, we just have our captains run the practices and run the drills and decide what direction the team should go in.”

“We don’t practice every day, so it was good to spend time with the team,” said Konieczny, a member of the College swim team. She said that nationals provided an opportunity for the team to bond.

Lavery, a member of the College’s baseball team, said that because participation in the sport is optional, the team doesn’t spend as much time together as a varsity sport would. The full team, for instance, was not in attendance for the tournament. “For nationals, I guess it was more optional for us, so we didn’t have very many people go,” said Lavery.

Team captain Kevin Donahue ’21 and team goalie Jack Flukinger ’22 could not attend nationals, so Konieczny said the team dedicated their games to the two.

“Kevin Donahue is the spirit of the water polo team,” Lavery said.

Next season, Konieczny said that the women’s team aims to bring in more new people. “We’re trying to bring in more scrimmages, more breaking down the basics, so we can bring in more new people,” she said. “A lot of us are either swimmers or we’ve played in high school, and I think if we focus more on the basics so new people will be less intimidated.”

Lavery said that scrimmaging with mixed teams of starters and bench players will allow the team to grow together and improve their conditioning.

“Our goal is always to make it to nationals again,” Konieczny said.

The water polo team practicing for nationals at Grinnell College’s Russell K. Osgood pool. Photo by Elena Copell.
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