Water polo wins one of three
by Lauren Wilson
for the thresher
The men's water polo club team completed its season last weekend by winning one of three matches to finish sixth out of 10 teams at the Southwestern Division Championships hosted by Texas A&M University.
The squad finished the year with a record of 5-6.
Saturday, Rice defeated Texas Christian University 9-3 before falling to second seed and eventual tournament champion University of Arizona 15-3.
That set up a matchup against Colorado State University, which also won one of its two opening matches, in Sunday's second round.
The match was characterized by strong defense from both teams as well as a series of shot-clock violations by the Rams that left their offense all but impotent for the first three quarters.
Rice senior goalkeeper Brian Hill recorded nine blocks in the game, with four in the first quarter alone.
A quick shot by Colorado State's Mark Schulbach with 52 seconds gave the Rams a 4-3 edge, and Rice's answering attempt went wide.
On another possession in the final five seconds, Hill lobbed the ball down the 30-meter pool to sophomore Mike Bader, whose last-second shot was blocked.
The narrow loss, however, did little to dampen the team's satisfaction with its play.
"I was happy with that performance," graduate student player and coach Miles Scotcher said. "It's the happiest I've been with any of our performances all year. It was great to play a team that pushed us, and we certainly pushed as hard as CSU."
The tournament showed the Owls that they could compete on the same level as more established clubs.
"I know we're disappointed when we lose," senior club president Molly Heinz said. "But when I look at the size and experience of these schools, I'm impressed by our team."
This was the first championship for the second-year club, which was unable to raise the money required for league membership in its first year.
The Owls face a significant experience deficit against virtually every team they play - four of Rice's seven starters had never picked up a water polo ball before last fall.
"We have come so far in the last two months to put in the performance that we did this morning," Scotcher said after Sunday's game. "It reflects well on the players and their commitment to the sport."
Rice's men's team plans to continue scrimmaging and playing in unaffiliated tournaments during the next semester to prepare for league play next fall.
The immediate challenge for Rice water polo, though, lies in the hands of its women's squad, which returns to College Station next weekend for a five-team tournament in preparation for the spring's women's league season.
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