The Cornell men’s water polo team won the New York Division of the Club Water Polo Association and is headed to Nationals in Oregon this weekend, Nov. 9-10, to face off against club teams from all over the country.
“I am extremely proud of our team. Since freshman year, Tyler [Marrero], Mario [Martone], Alex [Schlichting] and I have all been together. We have been through alot and have definitely come far as a team,” said senior captain Dylan Spitz. “I really do like how our team has been [this season] on offense and defense.”
The victory for the Red in the NY Division is only the second time that the team has won since 2000.
“There is one thing that has definitely changed — the ability to play together as a team. That has always been a challenge … We have never had the talent [on the team that has] come together and worked as a whole unit,” Martone said. “I felt like as a coach … that mentality has been built [this season]. We have really gone into the water as a single block.”
The Red represents Binghamton, Colgate, Columbia, Hamilton, NYU, Rensselear, Syracuse and the Military Academy as the New York Division champion, when it heads to Nationals this weekend.
“It is a really big step for our program. We have really been building towards this. We came in my freshman year and we had a few experienced players, but hadn’t been able to put together the type of season to be in contention for a championship. Over my four years here, I have noticed improvement as a team,” Marrero said. “Each year, we have gotten an influx of stronger players and just our overall depth is much better than what it was … To be in a position now where we haven’t been in 12 years is awesome.”
The team begins the tournament facing off against the Missouri Valley Division Champion — Lindenwood University — at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Oregon State.
In 2010 and 2011, the team lost in the NY Division finals against Columbia — putting Cornell in second place at the end of both seasons. However, this season was different as the Red defeated the Lions, earning the right to represent New York at the national level.
“One of the reasons we were able to beat Columbia was that we kept things simple and didn’t try to get too fancy,” Marrero said.
Two weekends ago, the men’s team competed for the third time in the Ivy League tournament, which was hosted this year by Yale. The Cornell club team matched up with other Ivy club teams including Penn, Columbia, Yale and Dartmouth. The team returned to the hill with a 1-2 record from the tournament, despite missing two starters and not being used to the narrow Yale pool, which limited offensive opportunities for the Red. However, the team was able to take down Yale in that matchup and had some solid plays against Penn in the last game of the tournament for a successful weekend performance overall. However, the Red seems ready to move past the Ivy showing and is mentally and physically prepared to head to Oregon with the hopes of solid team bonding and positive performances in the pool.
“I am expecting [Nationals] to be a completely different level ... I am expecting it to be a lot more talent on display [and] a lot more awe-inspiring,” Schlichting said. “I am definitely looking forward to seeing some really good water polo.”
Cornell’s women’s water polo team also had strong performances last season in the spring. Highlights of the season were winning the NY Division and advancing to Nationals as well.
“[Nationals] was the climax of a four year experience playing water polo at Cornell. It was my senior year, my birthday weekend and I was co-captain so it was everything thrown together into an incredible amount of excitement,” said coach Diana Foster ’11. “Especially after junior year — getting destroyed by a lot of teams at Nationals — it was awesome to come back and see how much we had grown as a team together and be able to win a game.”
In the National run last year, the women defeated Syracuse in the division finals to take home the title for the second consecutive year. And in addition to the division title, the Red won a game at Nationals for the first time in the program’s history.
“It was really amazing … There were a lot of new players that even got a chance to play in [the winning game] so that was great,” said senior Heidi Roush. “Our team had a lot of seniors so I think that it was a great experience for them all coming through the program together … It was one of the most amazing things that they could have wished for.”
The team heads into the spring with high hopes that the new members of the team can help the Red come out victorious once again.
“This year, since we lost a lot of seniors … [it] is a huge rebuilding year. This semester we have been focusing on making sure that we are really strong on the basics of passing and shooting. We have a lot of new girls this year, as compared to the last couple of years,” Roush said.