Men’s water polo heads to nationals

GVL Archive / Jaslyn Gilbert
Past mens water polo

GVL Archive / Jaslyn Gilbert Past mens water polo

Kevin VanAntwerpen

After successfully defeating an old rival at regionals, the Grand Valley State University men’s water polo team sets its sights on this weekend’s National Championships against a team that previously hindered a march to the title — Arizona State University.

The Lakers will board a plane today destined for the National Collegiate Club Water Polo Championships in Utah. The team’s first scheduled match will pit it against the Sun Devils, a team that defeated GVSU in the 2008 National Quarterfinals.

“A lot of the guys are pretty jazzed,” said GVSU head coach Josh Ahrendt. “They’d like to get some revenge to return the favor for last time.”

While the Lakers look ahead to nationals with confidence, they acknowledge their position as the underdogs.

“Obviously everyone has heard of Arizona State,” said Josh Ensing, the oldest of the team’s three captains. “No one knows about a little Division II school like us. But if we play our best, we can definitely beat them.”

The regionals victory over the University of Chicago-Illinois team that defeated GVSU last year fueled the Lakers’ confidence. Ensing said team unity and an outstanding performance by goalie Peter Huyser have contributed to GVSU’s success.

“It was one team with one purpose,” he said. “We all knew our role. It wasn’t just a game to play. We knew it meant us going to Utah.”

The road to Utah has not been easy. GVSU had to compensate for the graduation of several of its senior players and experienced what Ahrendt called “growing pains” as the Lakers attempted to integrate six new players during the season.

“We started off a little slow because we’re somewhat young this year,” he said. “But now we’re playing our best and that’s how we got into nationals.”

The slow start is a thing of the past after the victory at regionals, which Ahrendt said was the team’s best game of the season. He attributed the progress to leadership from the team’s three captains, who have made an effort to share their knowledge with the new players.

“Grand Valley water polo is the reason I’m at Grand Valley,” Ensing said. “It’s a great school, but first and foremost I came to Grand Valley to win at a National Championship. I see so much talent with these younger players and I want to teach them a level of integrity toward the team itself. I want the legacy of Grand Valley water polo to live on after I move on.”

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