The Boston University men’s water polo team is only in its second year at the club level in the Collegiate Water Polo Association, but the squad is starting to make waves against the competition.
The Terriers finished fourth in the CWPA and fourth in the New England Division championship series Oct. 25 to 26 at Williams College.
Senior captain Phil Miller said the final tournament went as expected for the Terriers.
‘We [had] hoped to make it into the final two, but knew it was a stretch,’ he said. ‘We were competing against swim teams ‘-‘- the guys are faster, they have greater endurance. We have better ball skills than most of the teams out there, but that can only do so much for a team if [you’re] competing with guys who are in much better shape.’
BU defeated the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, 6-2, to open the championship series, as graduate student Paul Toran netted half of the Terriers’ goals.
The momentum did not carry over against Dartmouth College, however, as the Terriers fell, 12-5. BU got goals from five different players to back graduate student goalie Jon Freedman, who made 10 saves.
The final loss came against Yale University in a 12-8 setback. With the game tied at two through the first quarter, BU fell behind 7-3 at halftime and could not work its way back. Sophomore Eric Choi tallied a hat trick with two of those goals coming off power plays.
BU coach Zach Shufran said in an email he thought the team had a chance to win against Dartmouth and Yale, but that the season still ended on a positive note.’
‘After [beating UMass], I just told the team we were playing with house money. We had nothing to lose and we should just go out and have fun. I think the guys had a really good time that weekend, and it was a good way to end the season.’
Shufran said the goal at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top four of the league, a lofty ambition, considering the team finished seventh the year before.
‘[It] was a high goal, but a reasonable one,’ he said. ‘Once we saw the type of talent we were able to recruit, I think expectations went up quite a bit. We had two really huge wins our first weekend at home. Those games were really great because we received a lot of support from our BU fans.’
This was also the first year men’s water polo did significant on-campus recruiting prior to and during the first week of school.
‘In many ways, we’re still learning how to play and operate as a team. We had about 13 new guys come out for the team [this year]. If we experience anything like that in the future, we’ll be in really good shape,’ Shufran said.
Miller, who founded the water polo team two years ago, credits the increased numbers to recruiting through Splash and Facebook.
‘I knew that I wanted to start the team coming into school,’ Miller said. ‘It was just a matter of seeing if there were people interested, if there was a sport for it and then going for it.’
During Miller’s freshman year, there were several men’s water polo players who practiced with the women’s club team, so they decided to try to form their own team the following year. He searched on Facebook for men with water polo listed as an interest and invited them to join the Facebook group he created.
The first season was discouraging, Miller said, as the team did not win a single game.
‘Most kids did it because they like competing, but obviously it was hard for them to keep going with it when we weren’t winning.’
The following year ‘-‘- its first at the collegiate level ‘-‘- the team won two games against what Miller referred to as ‘the two worst teams in the league.’
‘We’re building momentum as a club and we’ll have increasingly better recruiting classes,’ Miller said. ‘There is already a lot of talent at BU. The problem is persuading kids to come out [for the team]. We definitely accomplished almost all of our goals for this season. We’ll set higher goals for next season, and I’m sure we’ll accomplish those.’
Making men’s water polo a varsity sport, however, is not high on Miller’s priority list.
‘I think it should stay a club sport,’ he said. ‘It’s better for guys to be able to go and play their sport in a good environment and just have fun. Instead of having it be an obligation, something that they dread, they can just play it for fun.’
Shufran echoed Miller’s sentiments.
‘Realistically, I don’t want to see water polo becoming a varsity sport at BU,’ he said. ‘I’m happy with it as a club team, because I would not be involved at the varsity level.’