Water polo goes 2-2 in league play

Men’s water polo (2-6-0, 2-2-0 in their division) split four games this weekend at the Yale tournament, winning games against Coast Guard and Trinity while falling to Yale and long-time rival Amherst.

The tournament began with a game against Yale, one of the strongest contestants for the Northeastern division championship. Williams had a strong showing against the Bulldogs, but were unable to pull out a win, losing 13-9.

The Ephs then faced Coast Guard and Trinity, traditionally weaker teams, winning 16-7 and 19-4, respectively. The final game of the weekend was a surprising upset, as Williams fell to Amherst’s Penguins 9-8.

On Sunday the Ephs played an aggressive game with solid defense against Amherst. They out-swam the Penguins and were able to catch up to them on fast-breaks; however, play became sloppy in the second half due to overall fatigue from the weekend’s games.

“We were all very fired up for the Amherst game. Even though we were up for most of the game, we weren’t coming together,” co-captain Adrian Salinas ’05 said. “We were all in the wrong mindset, we weren’t feeling each other, and got panicky because we were supposed to be winning by a much larger margin.”

Going into the fourth quarter, the Ephs held a 7-6 advantage over the Penguins. However, with little time left in the game, the team let down and Amherst took control. In the end, the score was tied at eight all until Amherst scored and again took possession. “We tried to steal the ball to get a timeout. It took too long, and by the time we got the ball we had only seven seconds left to tie it up. We tried to set up to score, but it didn’t happen,” Salinas said.

Standout Will Cunningham ’06 was again the lead scorer against Amherst, supplying five of the team’s eight goals in the game. He led the team in points for the weekend as well, netting an impressive 18 goals. Other high point contributors for the weekend were Brett Marinelli ’07, co-captain Dave Arnolds ’04 and Eric Manchester ’05.

One major obstacle the Ephmen faced throughout the tournament was the small pool size. The Ephs practice in a 30 meter pool, while the Yale pool is only 25 meters. “We are used to playing in a bigger pool,” Salinas said. “Amherst had a home court advantage in terms of the size of the pool.” This coupled with Amherst’s atypical defensive setup placed a lot of pressure of the hole set position (water polo’s equivalent of basketball’s point guard) played by Cunningham.

“It is a different game, one that is more tiring,” Cunningham said. “I am going to be wrestling with a guy for more of the game.”

Saturday’s games against Trinity and Coast Guard provided the team with the opportunity to give first year players valuable game-time experience. After the game was underway, Williams maximized playing time for their rookies.

“New players are definitely stepping up,” Zack Orjuela ’06 said. “I can see a couple guys that aren’t starting now being useful subs in the next few weeks.”

While the veterans cheered from the sidelines, every new player scored at least once. “When somebody who had never scored before scored, we just went crazy!” Salinas said. It was exciting for the Ephs to see their novice players gain some confidence.

The tournament opener against Yale gave the Ephs a sneak-peek of what may be to come in the division championship. “We came out strong against Yale,” Orjuela said. “It was definitely the best water polo we’ve played this year so far.” Williams hung with the Bulldogs until they began to crash the hole, at which point the Ephs broke down and were unable to get outside shots. Yale’s roster includes two graduate students and a number of other experienced players. “Yale is the main contender, besides us, to win the division,” Salinas said.

Despite their competitive attitudes in the pool, there is a high level of camaraderie among the water polo teams. “We talk a lot of smack, but on a joking level,” Salinas said. Traditionally, Williams tries to capture the Amherst mascot, a blow-up plastic penguin doll.

This year, efforts were spearheaded by Nick Gallucci ’07, who attempted to disguise himself as an Amherst player by donning a white swim cap. His efforts were thwarted by watchful Amherst players, but nevertheless both teams enjoyed a good laugh.

Despite their humbling losses this weekend, the Ephs remain confident in their abilities and are eager to compete again against rivals Yale and Amherst. They hope to win all of their games at the home tournament on October 4 and 5. “The home crowd spurs us on,” Cunningham said. “We plan to be dominant in our tournament.”

The team is particularly excited about the Amherst match. “Come rocked and get rowdy,” Orjuela said to those considering attending the match. The match is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct 5.

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