GVSU water polo places 10th at nationals

GVL / Emily Frye 
Grand Valley Waterpolo on Sunday Nov. 13, 2016

GVL / Emily Frye Grand Valley Waterpolo on Sunday Nov. 13, 2016

Jake Carroll

The Grand Valley State club men’s water polo team competed at the National Collegiate Club Championship hosted by Notre Dame from Nov. 11-13.

GVSU finished in 10th place, an impressive result given how the tournament was structured.

The tournament consisted of 16 teams from across the country. If a team lost the first game, they were automatically placed in the lower 8 teams. So, the best placement a team could get after losing the first game was ninth place.

The Lakers dropped their first game against Penn State 10-4, which showed GVSU something they weren’t fully expecting.

“The opening round we played Penn State and they sort of caught us off guard,” said GVSU coach Spencer Sanders. “They played a full-press defense and we haven’t played against anyone who played that way all year. A lot of guys haven’t seen that since high school.”

The loss to Penn State was the team’s first loss since Sunday, Aug. 28. The Lakers collected themselves and routed their next two opponents, a 24-6 win over Clemson followed by a 9-4 victory over Army.

The tournament ended with a thriller for ninth place, a narrow 1-0 loss to Boston College, putting the Lakers at 10th place in their final ranking with an impressive 19-3 record.

The team was able to achieve all of their goals they set during the preseason.

“Our original goal was to win our conference and make it to nationals,” said team president Jacob Davis. “After we did that, we set our goals to do the best we could at nationals.”

Finishing 10th is an accomplishment in itself, but some GVSU players were honest about wanting to finish higher.

“I’m happy, not satisfied,” Wally Klienfeldt said. “Obviously our goals were a little bit higher, and we wanted to place better. We have a lot of talent coming back next year and we’re already looking forward to what we can to as a team.”

Next season, the Lakers are looking for bigger and better.

Of course, It will be difficult to improve on a 10th place finish, but the Lakers are all about doing things that are difficult for them.

GVSU had not made the national tournament in six years.

“This is the first time any of (this generation of players) have been there,” Sanders said. “We’re trying to get the program up to a highly competitive level.”

GVSU has shown marked progress, but the veterans are tasked with passing the torch to younger players, as is often the case with club sports.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” Klienfeldt said. “I’m excited to see who is going to sign up for next year.”

Sanders said this the nationals berth will bolster the culture of their program going forward. the team hopes to use the experience at nationals as a stepping stone for return trips to nationals.

“I’m really proud of the group,” Sanders said. “They worked extremely hard with one goal in mind, and that was to make the national tournament. They did it, and I’m extremely excited to see where this program is going.”