Water polo club teams sees growthBy Danielle Walker | 04/14/2014 11:00pm
In the South, especially at The University of Alabama, few people know much about the sport of water polo. Freshman Nathan Neglio described the game as a mix between basketball, wrestling and soccer, where you tread water for the duration of the game, trying to score as many points as possible.
Despite having little knowledge of the sport, seniors Sean Mendez and Sam Lipari brought the University’s water polo club back to campus in 2010. Mendez said the team barely had enough players to compete in its first tournament, where it lost every game.
The team has grown over the past four years, however, and it is composed of almost all out-of-state students.
“The year before I joined, we had one tournament, and we went 0-4,” club president and junior Joe Courson said. “We didn’t have a goal or proper equipment. It was just some PVC pipe on kick boards. So, we’ve come a decent way.”
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The club practices Monday through Thursday at the UA Aquatic Center under the guidance of head coach Ed Reed, who volunteers his time to help the club gain new skills.
“We’re actually fortunate enough to be coached by Ed Reed,” Courson said. “He used to be the women’s varsity water polo coach at Brown University. We’re fortunate to have one of the head authorities of water polo volunteering for our club team. He donates his time, and we’re super lucky.”
Reed was also the assistant coach for the 1996 Men’s Olympic team, and Neglio said he is the head of refereeing at the Collegiate Water Polo Association, where he trains the referees and reviews calls from national tournaments.
The team currently competes only in the spring, traveling all over the Southeast to meet teams from the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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“Next year if everything goes as planned we will be in the CWPA,” junior Jordan Stephenson said. “At that point, we’ll be entered in a more formal season that will take place mainly in the fall. There will be a couple tournaments that would be regular season games, which would then determine more of a national type of tournament.”
Since its losing 2010 season, the water polo club has seen success in recent years and especially in this season’s tournaments. In its tournament last weekend at the University of Georgia, the team went 1-1 with an 12-7 loss to Georgia and a 11-6 win against South Carolina. It also finished third in the Auburn Invitational Tournament at the beginning of March.
“It’s our best finish in our four years as a club, so that’s a pretty big improvement,” Courson said.
He said the water polo team looks forward to continuing to grow on campus with its recent success.
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