Club water polo captures national championship
The Washington University men’s club water polo team claimed its first Division III club national championship this past weekend.
The Bears traveled to Hamilton College in upstate New York to participate in the tournament.
“This year’s team has been very positive and focused,” captain Eric Potter, a senior, said. “We went to the national championships with the foot on the throttle and never let up.”
Entering as the fourth seed, the team faced Carnegie Mellon University in the first round, pulling off an easy 19-7 victory.
However, the team’s biggest challenge came in the second game versus the top-seeded Monmouth University Hawks. The Hawks were undefeated in the regular season and were the clear favorites, but the Bears bested them 17-11.
“We got a chance to see [Monmouth] play before we ended up playing them, knew how to play them, knew who their good guys were, knew how we could run our offense to exploit their weaknesses, and I think that really helped when we went up against them,” sophomore Tim Greer said.
With a victory over Monmouth, the team geared up to face the Bowdoin College Polar Bears on Sunday, Nov. 6, in the championship game.
“One of the greatest strengths of the team has been its ability to adapt under pressure,” Potter said. “We faced some creative offensive strategies from top programs and were able to expose their weaknesses.”
Wash. U. started fast with goals from freshman Shay Banton and graduate students Adam Gremp and Dan Conner to take a 3-0 lead less than 2:30 into the game.
The two teams traded goals for the rest of the half. The Polar Bears were able to even the score 4-4 with a goal from Noah Perwin at 4:28, but the Bears pulled ahead and maintained an 8-6 by the end of the second quarter.
Bowdoin had a strong performance in the third period, scoring three while the Red and Green were only able to notch one. Entering the fourth period, the Bears needed a strong offensive push to get out of the 9-9 tie.
Greer stepped up for Wash. U., scoring back-to-back man-up goals at 5:52 and 4:59. Gremp tacked on a goal, as did graduate student Sandor Kovacs to complete the Bears’ four-goal run, which would give them the 13-10 win.
“We were all really nervous before the game. We had to line up on the side of the pool and the officials introduced us, and I was trembling a little bit, because I had never been in a national championship game, and the other guys hadn’t either,” Greer said. “What was going through my mind was that I knew that we were all going to leave it all in the pool, give it your all, and don’t regret going out there and giving your best.”
Wash. U. was able to capitalize on exclusion fouls, as the team converted on five-of-eight, while Bowdoin only managed to score on one-of-four chances.
“While we owe a lot to some pivotal players, this championship was very much a team victory.”
Individuals had great success as well. Greer and Banton both earned first team all-tournament, and Greer was the tournament MVP while Banton was the Rookie of the Year. In addition, Gremp received second team All-Tournament, while player and coach Dan Conner earned all-tournament coach.
“I have played on competitive sports teams for almost 20 years, and this is the greatest, most cohesive and supportive group that I have ever had the honor of playing with,” Potter said.
This is the team’s first-ever national championship, a huge milestone and confidence booster for the program and the players.
“We have begun a new era in Washington University water polo,” Potter said. “I am confident that those of us graduating are leaving the program in the hands of very capable and driven young men.”
With additional reporting by Kurt Rohrbeck.