GVSU water polo continues to grow

Courtesy Photo / Eric Garvelink

Courtesy Photo / Eric Garvelink

Jay Bushen

When it comes to the Grand Valley State University women’s club water polo team, they hope that experience is overrated.

The Lakers (4-4) have shown potential in the 2013 season, despite having a roster that features more newcomers than returning players.

The team was surprised at the start of the season when they found out a number of players from the 2012 team were not returning.

“We’re a pretty young team,” said GVSU head coach Josh Ahrendt. “We have nine new players this season and just need to build some chemistry. We haven’t played together all that much.”

Following a 2-4 start, the No. 19 Lakers began to show their offensive firepower. The team managed to score more goals in their past two games than they had all season, defeating Illinois State University 9-4 and Washington University (Mo.) 15-5. The offensive outburst boosted the team’s average to 5.63 goals per game.

GVSU junior goalie Aurora Hennigar said the team is starting to improve, and the lack of overall experience doesn’t alter her expectations.

“Every girl on our team is a key player,” Hennigar said. “Our expectations are always to win a conference championship and head to nationals. Whether or not that’s going to happen this year depends on how well we work together.”

All four losses have been at the hands of ranked opponents in the Women’s Collegiate Club Top 20 Poll, with losses to No. 4 University of Michigan, No. 8 Lindenwood University, No. 14 University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois (tied with GVSU at No. 19).

If the Lakers hope to contend for a conference crown, they’ll need to find a way to match the physical presence of their competition.

“It gets physical,” Hennigar said. “It comes with the territory, but some of our younger players are still adjusting. The college level is much different than the high school level.”

After the final tournament of the regular season this weekend, the team will get ready for the Midwest Division Championship at West Ottawa High School in Holland, Mich. from April 12-13.

For team president and senior leader Rhandi Hicok, anything could happen in 2013.

“We’re hoping to make a statement at Notre Dame this weekend,” Hicok said. “Then we want to make it back to nationals. It’s not unachievable.”

The Lakers will head to South Bend, Ind. this weekend to compete in a tournament against divisional opponents from the University of Notre Dame, Miami University (Ohio), Wheaton College and Ohio University.

Ahrendt said he is pleased with his team’s effort to this point in the season, and that a conference title is not out of the question.

“They have done a real good job in practice and in games,” Ahrendt said. “I think we’ll be competing for a conference championship at the end of the season.”

[email protected]