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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Men’s Water Polo competes for trip to nationals

The 2014 Men's Water Polo team poses in front of the Riley Pool. Photo courtesy of Jenny Charlesworth.
The 2014 Men’s Water Polo team poses in front of the Riley Pool. Photo courtesy of Jenny Charlesworth.

The Men’s Water Polo team has a chance this weekend to reach the National Collegiate Water Polo Association championships for the first time in decades. Although the men’s team is not listed as a varsity sport, nor is it affiliated with the NCAA, the squad is currently ranked second in its conference and will enter the final weekend with a chance to make it to nationals for the third time in as many seasons.

Marko Martinovic ’15, one of two Scots to have been named Heartland Conference Player of the week this year, attributes much of this team’s success to Coach Jenny Charlesworth and co-captains Alex Frank ’16 and Simon Sanggaard ’15. “Communication is the key to a good team, and these captains are amazing that way,” Martinovic said. “I have to commend our coach for creating an atmosphere of teamwork, competitiveness and working for something much larger than yourself,” said Ben Kromash ’16, the other Scot to be named Heartland Conference Player of the Week this year.

Defense is the team’s modus operandi. “One of the things I’m proudest of is how hard everyone works to get back on defense,” Kromash said. All the better for supporting goalie Sanggaard, who Kromash calls “the best goalie in our conference by far.” This defensive support has been one of the team’s greatest improvements.

Generating such a hardworking atmosphere is unusual for a club sport, but considering that the team plays five or six times each week, Martinovic claims that he would never consider water polo a club sport. Kromash points to Charlesworth’s leadership as the defining feature that elevates this team above the level of normal club sports.

“We’ve come out very strong and dominated a lot of the teams in our conference,” Kromash said of the season. The 6-2 team managed to pull out a victory against St. John’s, an opponent with a number of varsity swimmers and longtime polo players. However, the season’s two losses have both come at the hands of first ranked and undefeated Augustana, and a possible trip to nationals could likely be decided by a third and final game against this rival.

In each game against Augustana, the Scots held a lead, and then their foe stormed back. “Both times we led by two or three goals, and then they’d get hungry and comeback and win. We fell for a few minutes in both games and that cost us the games,” Martinovic said.

Co-captain Simon Sanggaard'15 defends the goal. Photo courtesy of Jenny Charlesworth.
Co-captain Simon Sanggaard’15 defends the goal. Photo courtesy of Jenny Charlesworth.

Kromash and Martinovic constitute two of the Scots’ most important offensive and defensive cogs respectively. “Marko is an absolutely dominant player. He has a cannon for an arm and will put balls in the back of the net very quickly,” Kromash said. “He racks up a lot of goals and can make people look very silly in the water,” he continued.

Martinovic had similarly wonderful things to say about Kromash: “Had Ben not done a great job on defense, had Alex not assisted 90 percent of my goals, I never would have won that prize,” he said. “Ben’s such a good swimmer, he’s so smart, he moves so quickly, and he communicates really well. Those are the key characteristics of an ideal water polo player,” he said.

For the Scots to advance to nationals in Bowdoin, Maine, they will have to go undefeated this weekend against Carleton, St. John’s and finally Augustana. Carleton may be their weakest opponent: “I think we are faster and stronger in the water. We’re physically better prepared,” Martinovic said. He considers St. John’s to be a taller order, adding that they’ll have to “play very smart, sprint when it’s time to sprint, and put on a heck of a lot of pressure on defense.”

Beating Augustana to reach nationals would be a poetic culmination of the men’s team’s season. The Augustana team is full of quick, athletic players who are also dynamic shooters. “We are absolutely capable of beating them, we just have to go out and do it,” Kromash said. Martinovic took it a step further: “We have to play the best defense water polo has ever seen,” he said.

“We’ve come in second place the last two years and both years the team who beat us has been [subsequently] removed from our conference. Every year it looks like we’re the team who’s going to win it,” Kromash said. On Sunday at 11:30 a.m., it will be decided whether the Scots are the next team in line. “I’ve been to two finals, and we lost both. It’s not a pleasant feeling,” Martinovic said.

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