Sons of Neptune: From models to national contenders

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In the water and on land, the Sons of Neptune know how to have a good time. Here’s a peek at some pictures from their upcoming 2014 calendar.

They’ve been known to lap around campus bare-chested and bare-legged in blue and orange Speedos, chanting in what could only be conceived of as an obscure Nordic dialogue. You might have seen them at the Sept. 6 Taste of Service & Involvement Fair performing said ritual. Or perhaps, in your walks about campus, you’ve seen them staging pictures in iconic places at Mac and wondered about these mysterious, strapping athletes who seem almost injuriously immune to Minnesota weather.

Undoubtedly, the Sons of Neptune—Macalester’s club water polo team—has turned some eyes with its splashy antics. But seeing as the team is 7-1 and the second seed going into this weekend’s conference tournament, the sorts of boisterous and entertaining displays it has put on feel oddly appropriate.

The regular season

The Sons of Neptune have enjoyed an impressive 2013 campaign, although the team heads into the conference tournament fresh off a disappointing loss to division rival and the number one seed in the tournament, Grinnell College. Nonetheless, the squad finished the season 7-1, surpassing last season’s record of 9-3, with impressive wins over Augustana and St. Johns. A conference tournament win this weekend would propel the Sons of Neptune to the Division III Collegiate Club Championship at Franklin & Marshall College. The Sons of Neptune last participated in the Club Championship in 2010, when the event was held at Macalester.

“We’re pretty confident we can get back to the championship game,” said team captain Nathan Schachtman ’14. “[This is] the biggest team we’ve ever had in my four years…It’s just a really solid starting lineup and we’re really deep this year too.”

The team kicked off its season by sweeping Carleton, St. Johns, Knox and Augustana in a late September tournament at Grinnell. It followed up that impressive performance by winning three of four against Carleton, St. Mary’s, Knox and Grinnell. The 6-10 loss to Grinnell has been the season’s only real blemish.

According to Coach Jennie Charlesworth, who is now in her fifth year at Macalester, the Grinnell game “wasn’t [the team’s] best game of the season so far, but it just let [the team] know what [it] needed to work on for hopefully facing them in the championship.”

Going into the fourth and final quarter of play, the team was down just one goal, 6-7, but Grinnell pulled away in the final frame. The Sons of Neptune, up a man on account of an ejected Grinnell player, failed to connect on three key shot opportunities late in the game. According to Ben Kromash ’16, these missed shots could have turned the game around for Macalester.

“Those were opportunities that we’re normally very good at capitalizing on, and if we make those three shots, even two of them, it’s a very different game,” Kromash said. “It’s a matter of capitalizing on the opportunities that [the other team] present[s] us because our defense works to make them make mistakes.”

With regards to the Grinnell loss, Charlesworth noted a sense of disconnect between the players that seemed to affect the club’s performance. “We were a little scatter-brained—I guess you could say—not everybody on the same page at all times,” Charlesworth said. “We want to really focus on tightening up our defense and focus on stopping their big guys and then it’ll be offensively to get the ball in the back of the goal.”

Righting the ship will no doubt involve redoubling defensive efforts, an aspect of the game that Charlesworth has stressed throughout the season.

A defensive mindset

The Sons of Neptune need to continue to dominate if the team is to reach the conference championship game and move on to the national tournament. Anchored by 2-meter defender Alex Frank ’16 and goalie Simon Sanggaard ’15, who is also team captain along with Schachtman, a strong defense enables the offense to run breaks more efficiently and have more and better shots on goal.

Coach Charlesworth highlighted Frank’s role as a shot-blocker and 2-meter defender. “He’s very agile and knows where to be at the right time, to be in front of them and to take away the ball angle,” she said.

According to Sanggaard, it can be easy for players to become overly enamored with the prospects of goal-scoring and fail to get back on defense, which can be dangerous against teams like Grinnell that sport a formidable array of shooters.

“It looks great making a great goal, and it’s very easy to get caught up in not only watching your own goal, but in watching other people score a goal, so one thing we’ve been practicing a lot is making sure that we are ready for those transition plays [after a shot is taken],” said Sanggaard. “Once somebody has the ball and is about to [shoot] don’t watch it; there’s no reason to. If he scores, he scores, and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t.”

What you need to know about the conference tournament

The Sons of Neptune are a member of the Heartland Division of the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Club league. This weekend’s tournament at Macalester features each team in the division playing in a one-and-done format, with the winner advancing on to the national club championships at Franklin & Marshall.

“It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season, if you win conference you go to nationals,” said Schachtman. “We got second last year, and so we really would like to move up this year.”

In last year’s tournament, Macalester lost to number one seeded Monmouth College in the final round of the division tournament. However, the field was shaken up this year after Monmouth’s perennially dominant program won the 2012 national club championships, and converted into a Varsity program.

“[Monmouth] is not a part of our conference anymore, which makes this year very interesting, because suddenly there’s not this one team that just dominates everything and that you cannot win against,” said Sanggaard.

With Monmouth out of the way, the Sons of Neptune will most likely have to get through Grinnell in the final round of the tournament. Before a possible showdown with Grinnell, however, the Sons of Neptune will open up the tournament against Knox College—a team it handily defeated earlier in the season—at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday. The captains hope to see a large weekend crowd at both Saturday games. With a win, Macalester’s next slated match will be Saturday night at 8 against, very possibly, Augustana. The final round of the tournament will play out on Sunday.

“For the seniors, they’ve gotten 4th place, they’ve gotten 3rd place, they’ve gotten 2nd place,” said Charlesworth. “The only place to go is first.