Men's water polo hosts Heartland Division Championship

By Daniel Kerwin

The men’s water polo season has been in full swing all semester long, but so far all of the team’s games have been played away from campus. This weekend the team will finally be making a splash on campus.Saturday and Sunday Macalester will be hosting the Heartland Division Championship in the Riley Pool, competing with the goal of qualifying for the national championships.

Macalester is facing tough competition, and needs to go undefeated in the tournament to qualify for nationals. The stakes are high, but if that’s not enough of a reason to come out and support the team, there are additional incentives too.

“If anyone’s questioning about coming to a water polo game, they should think about how royal blue and tiny our suits are,” Nathan Young ’11 said.

The tournament also has the added excitement of some unfinished business. Macalester’s first opponent on Saturday will be Monmouth College, who coincidentally are also called the Scots, but that’s where the similarities end. Monmouth is the kind of team that Max Cady ’10 said, “everyone roots against,” and last year Monmouth created bad blood by using racial and homophobic slurs against members of the Macalester team. It became a hot topic on campus and prompted a response by the Macalester administration.

Macalester enters as the underdogs in the matchup, with Monmouth ranked as the No. 1 seed in the tournament and Macalester taking the No. 5 seed, but Macalester is completely set on destroying Monmouth this time around.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we will play our hardest against Monmouth,” Cady said. “They are the team to beat and everyone is excited to show them what we can do.”

After the Monmouth game at 12:20 p.m., Macalester’s next game is against the No. 4 seed Carleton at 3:50 p.m.

“Both games will be a challenge,” Cady said.

However, if Macalester wins both games they will be automatically playing in the championship game at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. A win in the championship game and the team will automatically qualify for nationals. Nationals will be held Nov. 7 at Bowdoin College in Maine.

Macalester has had past success qualifying for nationals, qualifying in both 2005 and 2006.

Despite being the No. 5 seed in the tournament, Macalester has a number of factors working in their favor this weekend. Macalester is the only team that trains in a pool where both ends of the playing area are in deep water, so hosting the tournament at Macalester is an automatic advantage. The team also has not had all of its players healthy at the same time, and will be at full strength for the first time all season during the tournament. Having a huge home crowd show up to the games would also give the team a huge boost.

“It’s just really nice to play in front of fans,” Max Kulicke ’11 said.

The team has seen a number of changes this year, including a new coach, women’s varsity coach Jennie Charlesworth, who has inspired new playing styles for the team.

“We’ve been focusing on new strategies this year, including getting high in the water in order to exploit our opponents’ weaknesses,” Gregor Hoffman ’11 said.

The league the team plays in co-ed, and there were attempts to add women to the team this season, but the attempts were blocked by the administration.

Strictly based on performance in the pool though, it’s been a good year for the team.

“This season has been full of emotion and passion in the pool,” Captain Jeff Yamashita ’11 said. “We are working our asses off and having fun and that’s why I really enjoyed this season.”

Bobbi Gass ’10 agrees that this year has been a good one for the team.

“This team is overflowing with love, you can’t help but feel it,” Bobbi Gass ’10 said. “We’re really tight.”

It’s up to this weekend to decide whether the bond the team has formed this season is strong enough to take them all the way to nationals.