Splashing into its fall campaign with the return of experienced
veterans and the addition of fresh talent, the Michigan men’s water
polo club is no longer settling for second best.
The past three years have been marked by heartbreaking losses in
the finals of the Big Ten Championships. And each season, the
difference has been a single goal. Molding a comfortable home at
the runner-up position, Michigan polo came up short against the
Spartans twice and Purdue once.
“We’ve been working harder every year, and right now, we are in
the best shape we’ve ever been in,” said president and captain Dean
Malmgren, who is looking to take that extra step this season.
Kicking off its crusade at the Michigan State tournament this
past weekend, the team’s impressive first-place performance set the
tone for its championship campaign. Taking home the bacon against
Purdue in the finals (9-5), the squad also destroyed MSU B (16-8),
Illinois (18-4), and Indiana (14-6) along the way.
Malmgren says the squad’s strategies to achieve first place
glory included staying consistently motivated for every tournament.
Drowning its opponents in a 2-2 split last year at the Claremont
Convergence Tournament against four Division III Varsity teams, the
club is looking forward to returning to Southern California Oct.
9-14 to prove its championship potential.
Entering the season with all but one player returning, the
team’s cohesion will be one of its strengths.
“We are here because we want to be; we simply love this sport,”
senior holeset Rich Magner said.
Malmgren insists that digging for the extra edge in the close
games is the main focus. The nail-biters will no longer be about
physical ability, but rather mental endurance.
As one of the smallest squads physically in the Big Ten,
Malmgren insures that what the team lacks in size, it will make up
for in speed and skill. Looking to a talented incoming freshman
class as a welcoming addition, the team president regarded these
new assets with high expectations.
“We freshmen look to make any kind of impact we can from the
bench,” freshman addition Jon Thomas said.
According to Malmgren, the raw enthusiasm and encouragement from
these newcomers can push the team that much further.
Vice president Larry Kennedy explained that the squad’s “club”
status provides another means to achieving its first-place goal.
Club athletes’ egos are in check and their label causes them to
work that much harder to earn respect. Sponsoring fundraising
events from can drives to selling t-shirts offer humbling
experiences for the athletes.
Though Big Ten glory and national recognition would be
undeniable achievements for the club, Magner acknowledged that
having more than half the team attend pre season was a true victory
in the sense of athletic commitment.
“Polo may not be our whole life, but it is a close second,”