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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Men’s water polo takes 4th in Nationals

    Hitting post after post, the No. 2 Arizona men’s water polo team knew the ball just wasn’t going to bounce its way.

    The Wildcats fell 10-5 to top-ranked Michigan State in the semifinals of the Collegiate Water Polo Association National Championships, held this weekend at the Student Recreation Center.

    Arizona hit the post 19 times during Sunday morning’s match against MSU, then fell to No. 18 Miami (Ohio) 12-11 in the consolation game that afternoon after a controversial call against the Wildcats sealed their fourth-place finish.

    “”I was disappointed we didn’t play well as a team against Michigan State,”” said senior Todd Carpenter.

    Having played the Spartans tough in a last-minute, one-goal loss earlier in the season, Arizona knew it could win this time around but didn’t execute well enough to beat the defending national champions.

    The Wildcats were seeded fourth based on their fourth-place finish in last year’s national championship tournament.

    “”We played really well,”” said head coach Emily Schmit. “”It was great to be at home. We really fed of the energy of the crowd. It was just unfortunate that we drew MSU in the third round.””

    Even though the year didn’t end with a championship, and key components of the team will be lost, the team should be in good hands after accomplishing most of its season goals, Carpenter said.

    But, he added, the team just won’t be the same next year with team president Alex Kane leaving.

    “”(Kane) took on a huge responsibility to make sure everything would go as planned,”” Carpenter said. “”He was the biggest role model on the team and a big player at the same time.””

    The team’s biggest goal was to make a bigger push for recognition with the hopes of becoming an NCAA Division-I program, and Kane did his part to make that happen. Being the team’s schedule-maker and travel agent, Kane helped Arizona twice play the nation’s No. 1 team, the California junior college champions and a team of former D-I players this season.

    The Wildcats’ ensuing 18-5 record showcased the kind of talent in Tucson, Kane said.

    He also wrote a letter to athletic director Jim Livengood imploring him to try and make Arizona water polo a D-I sport, pointing to the team’s recent string of success as proof that it deserves to compete against the best teams in the country on a regular basis.

    This year’s fourth-place finish marks the fourth consecutive year the men’s water polo team has finished the year ranked at least No. 4 in the country – a feat Kane said highlights the great history of Arizona water polo.

    Although he won’t be a part of the team next year, Kane is confident in the team’s abilities to fit in with all the other championship teams in Tucson.

    “”We’re losing six valuable seniors, so we’re losing a lot of age and wisdom, but we have a lot of young scoring talent and speed that will take over next year,”” Kane said. “”This was one of our best freshman recruiting classes ever and there’s a handful of guys that are ready to step into a role on the A-team next year.””

    Schmit is also excited for next season – her second as head coach – to see a young team develop and fill the holes the departing seniors will leave behind.

    The future certainly appeared bright as Arizona handily defeated New York 17-3 in its first game Friday morning and dispatched No. 4 Florida International 11-9 in the second round Saturday morning.

    “”We have lots of juniors who are ready to step up and take over,”” Schmit said, noting junior Alex Negronida’s first-team all tournament honors. “”Our young talent is ready and raring to go.””

    Tournament highlights talent-laden UA men’s volleyball squad

    The Arizona men’s volleyball team unofficially tipped off its season Saturday as it held a Friendship Tournament at Bear Down Gym from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    The team split up into four separate teams, battling one another, other local teams and an alumni team.

    “”All in all, we had a pretty good tournament,”” said UA head coach Dave Thistle. “”We played our best ball toward the end, and our A-team basically played each other in the semis. That match was great to see and probably the best match of the day. It was by far the best (the team) played this year.””

    The tournament featured two rounds of pool play, followed by a six-team playoff to determine the winner. Each team only had six to seven players, resulting in every member of the men’s volleyball team playing at least seven matches over the course of the day, with each match being hotly contested.

    Senior Brenden Kerr said the tournament acted as a way for players to showcase what skills they can bring to the team this year and help coaches see what lineups will work well.

    “”With the level of competitiveness of each player, it’s looking like we’ll be a very good team this year,”” Kerr said.

    In the final game of the tournament, the alumni team defeated one of the UA A-teams 30-28, although the match was shortened because of the tournament running over its allotted time at Bear Down Gym.

    “”It was a fun and intense game, but we really ran out of gas by the time we made the finals,”” said setter Duff Hearon. “”The tournament went very, very well and it was really competitive in every match. It was good to get some reps before next week’s tournament in San Diego.””

    The team leaves for San Diego State’s friendship tournament later this week, an event Arizona won last year.

    Kerr said the team should build off this weekend’s quality performance and be able to repeat as champs.

    “”Our goal is to win every tournament every year,”” Kerr said. “”We have a solid team this year, and it looks like the hard work we put in will pay off and put us on the map.””

    Thistle said he expects the team to have a great season and anticipates a deep run at the end of the year.

    “”I really think we’re heading in the right direction this year. I was worried about the team’s intensity, but I liked what I saw (at Bear Down Gym) and was really surprised by the whole team,”” Thistle said. “”The whole team is really solid. There are talented players all across the board. They were focused and the intensity was there.””

    Hearon added: “”This helped prepare us for nationals for sure. That’s pretty far down the road, but I’m confident we can take it home.””

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