Water polo to splash foreign waters

Courtesy Photo / Michelle Clancy

Coach Josh Ahrendt addresses the team during halftime of the Midwest Conference Championship game.

Courtesy Photo / Michelle Clancy Coach Josh Ahrendt addresses the team during halftime of the Midwest Conference Championship game.

Curtis Kalleward

A group of women on Grand Valley State University’s campus is making history, and two sisters are leading them into it.

The GVSU women’s water polo team will head to the National Championship tournament next weekend for the first time in its seven years of existence.

With the national spotlight comes the opportunity to compete against teams the Lakers would not otherwise see.

“I think we have huge potential to open some eyes as to what Grand Valley water polo is all about,” said captain Katelyn Clancy. “It’s exciting to play some teams that we’ve never played before. It’s still not real to me yet in a lot of ways. (Getting to nationals) has been my focus for five years, and to finally have it happen is insane.”

Though an intimidating experience, the No. 10 Lakers feel they can compete with the top teams in the country.

“We represent good Laker polo, no matter who the opponent is,” said co-captain Michelle Clancy, Katelyn Clancy’s sister. “Playing on a national level for something that big is scary, but we can overcome that if we communicate as a team while we’re in the water.”

Thanks in part to the diligence and hard work from Katelyn Clancy, Michelle Clancy and junior co-captain Ashley Mulder, the team’s talent level and abilities have grown considerably during the past few years.

“I’ve seen a lot of improvement throughout the team in my four years here,” Michelle Clancy said. “When I began, we weren’t even well-known in our division, and now we’re all the way at nationals. In four years, I’ve seen this team turn around from a regular club sport to a nationally sound team.”

Mulder noted that the sisters bring a sixth sense to the game that has helped the team come farther than ever before.

“We’re a team, so we all play well together, but they’re different,” she said. “Being sisters, they have a lot of chemistry already built in. They know where each other is around the pool.”

Within all of the excitement of making it to nationals rests a bittersweet end to an era. The Clancys, who have competed in water polo together for the past 10 years, will reach the end of their careers together at season’s end.

“Katelyn and I have played since sixth grade,” Michelle Clancy said. “It’s bittersweet that this will be our last year of playing water polo together. We’re both excited for the fact that we’ve played together for so long and now we’re ending our careers together at the national tournament.”

Katelyn Clancy said this is the first time the team has a shot to win it all.

“I felt from the beginning of the year that the team could go this far,” she said. “I’ve been on the team long enough to see who was going to stick around and make this team the strongest it’s ever been. I think we have that team now.”

The team will fly to Tucson, Ariz., for the tournament, held April 23-25.

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