Fresh faces jumpstart water polo

Pat Bicanich

The new faces and fresh talent on the Grand Valley State University men’s club water polo team have fueled its success this season.

The Lakers have jumped out to an 8-1 record to start their 2013-2014 campaign. They have had quality victories against premier competition such as the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago. GVSU’s lone loss came at the hands of Notre Dame College by a final score of 9-7.

Head coach Joshua Ahrendt is in his 10th season at GVSU and said he is pleased with his team’s progress from a sub .500 season a year ago. He attributes the success to the greater number of players on his team that allow them to accomplish more in practice.

“We have 15 freshmen, and having more players allows us to accomplish more in practice,” Ahrendt said. “The overall talent level has increased from years past, and the influx of freshmen has helped us replace the large number of players we lost to graduation last year.”

The veteran players have also noticed what an asset it is to have young talent on the roster. Sophomore captain Nathan Napolillo said the added depth allows the Lakers to simulate game situations that they previously were unable to execute.

“We lost a few seniors last year, but we made up for it this year because we have a lot of freshmen,” Napolillo said. “Last year our team was pretty small, but now we have more guys in practice, so we’re able to scrimmage each other whereas last year we weren’t able to get those game situations.”

The freshmen have already built a lot of chemistry because the vast majority of them have played together prior to attending GVSU. Some played on the same high school team in the Grand Rapids area, while others played on Junior Olympic teams that competed throughout the country.

“We need to continue to become accustomed to playing together,” Ahrendt said. “Six or seven of them played together for several years. As we play more, we should become more comfortable and that will make us a better team.”

GVSU is hosting a tournament this weekend that will feature the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. This tournament will be crucial because the team will be playing its final games before the conference championship next weekend.

“The tournament is important because it’s the last time we can work on things to see what works and what doesn’t,” junior Kevin Clancy said. “We have a rigorous schedule this week with MSU and UM so we want to go out there and work on the things that are most crucial to our game and work on the little things as well.”