By Philip Kiely
Water polo, a contact sport, is known for bloody Olympic games and being incredibly hard. Because the game is played in the pool, players wear no safety equipment, only swimsuits and colored caps that identify their team.
“It’s a pretty physical game, generally,” Tristan Knoth ‘17, a captain of the men’s water polo team, said.
The teams field six general players and a goalie. Players are only allowed to catch and throw with one hand and must tread water the entire time. At the club level, there are four seven-minute quarters in the game. To score, a player must throw the ball into a cage, which is a large floating net.
“Water polo is like a mix of soccer and basketball. It’s similar to basketball in the way we play offense and defense, where we are with our person at all times or doing plays to try to get the ball into the goal. It’s like soccer in the way that we have to travel pretty quickly and have good…ball handling skills,” said Beth Tsuha ’17, a women’s water polo team captain.
At Grinnell, the men’s team competes in the fall and the women’s team in the spring. Women are also allowed to play on the men’s team. Tsuha and Shannon Ellery ’18 are the captains of the women’s team, Knoth, Kyren DiMarzio ’17 and Zach Laird ’17 head the men’s team.
Grinnell water polo is not a varsity sport, and it falls under the same category as Ultimate Frisbee. The teams compete in the Heartland Division Conference. The men’s team is division three while the women’s club water polo is not divided into divisions.
“We have a conference, we’re in the Heartland Division Conference, and that includes Knox, Carleton, St Mary’s and Washington University,” Tsuha said.
The men’s team won the conference and went to nationals this year.
“We won the Heartland Division, which meant that we qualified for nationals, which were at Hamilton in upstate New York. We went there and I think we got fifth. We lost the first round to Carnegie Mellon, we played Tufts, lost to them, but we beat Middlebury. It’s a lot of fun to go to nationals; we’ve gone to nationals every year that I’ve been here,” Knoth said.
The captains of the men’s team have taken a more active role this year than in the past.
“In past years, it’s been more like coaching by democracy, which was just a huge shitshow. We got a little bit more organized this year, which I think worked out really well,” Knoth said.
The teams practice three times a week and have games regularly.
“If you know how to play basketball or soccer you should come to our games because water polo is very fun to watch, very engaging, especially if you know how those two sports work,” Tsuha said. “My junior year there was a push towards making it a varsity sport, but I think it’s fine the way it is. Most of the people on the women’s team are either doing it for the first time or doing it because it’s fun, so I don’t know how the team dynamic would change if it was a varsity sport.”