Returning to the National Collegiate Club Water Polo Championships for the second year in a row, the Yale Men’s Club Water Polo team topped its ninth place finish from last year’s competition.
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The team arrived at Nationals, held in Cedar City, Utah. this year, with an extra year of experience, and a recent New England Division title and took seventh overall at the meet. The Bulldogs won their first game against Oregon 6–8, but were eliminated from championship contention in the quarterfinals after losing to No. 2 UCLA, who took first place in the tournament. The team then lost to Lindenwood 14–4, but pulled out a narrow victory over Colorado 7–6 in the seventh place match.
Co-captain David Skophammer ’12 said the Bruins are known to have a great varsity water polo team as most of their club players are former varsity recruits, with varsity level talent.
“We knew they were going to be a solid team,” co-captain Andrew Gordon ’11 added. “But we also knew that we had a good chance to beat them.”
At the end of the first half against the Bruins, it was anyone’s game; Yale entered the half down just two goals. Just before the halftime whistle, Yale missed a crucial opportunity, and the Bruins countered pulling ahead two goals. The Bruins outscored the Bulldogs 6–2 in the third period and 3–1 in the fourth period, coasting to a comfortable eight goal lead.
“We almost evened up the score at the end of the half, but they countered on our missed opportunity and scored just before the half-time whistle,” continued Gordon. “At the start of the second half, the Bruins came out on fire with some incredible shots. There was nothing we could do. They had the momentum.”
Although the Bulldogs ended up losing by a final score of 7–15, they bounced back in their final game to defeat Colorado by a score of 7–6, taking the seventh place spot in the competition and ending the season with a win. With twenty one seconds left and down one goal, Colorado nearly clawed its way back into the game, but Yale goalie Keith Rubin held strong and took home Player of
the Game honors with his 11 saves.
“It was the culmination of a very successful season, and a great bonding experience for our team moving forward,” Skophammer said. “We had a pretty special team this year, and we’ll be returning most of our players. This program has a bright future.”
The Bulldogs run for a national championship came after the Bulldogs defeated Dartmouth 8–3 to advance to Nationals and reassert their dominance in the New England Division.
Skophammer was also the only Bulldog named to the 2010 All Tournament First Team for his performance, an accomplishment that is “the highest accolade in College Club Water Polo,” according to his coach and teammate Thomas Lazzarini ’11.
Lazzarini has had the rare opportunity to coach the team for two years in a row, a role most often reserved only for senior players. According to teammates, Lazzarini has proved himself to be near irreplaceable, and his leadership has been an integral part of the Bulldogs’ last two undefeated seasons in the New England Division.
Skophammer said that the future of the men’s water polo team is bright. This fall, the team nearly defeated Harvard’s varsity squad in a Halloween weekend thriller. Additionally, the Yale Water Polo Association was recently established with the aim of fundraising, reconnecting alumni to the program, and generating interest in the sport, which tends to keep a fairly low profile on campus. The Men’s Club Water Polo Team starts up again this spring when they host their own regional tournament at Payne Whitney Gym.