A strong season start has the men’s water polo club team hoping to celebrate the centennial anniversary of its last national title with another trophy.

With three returnees voted to the New England All-Conference team, one selected as league MVP, a graduate student who played with the Canadian National Team, and a fresh crop of talented freshmen, the men’s water polo club team (4-0) is looking not only to champion its New England division, but also place in the top four at the Club National Tournament in November.

Yale last won the national championship in 1904.

If Yale qualifies for the national tournament, the Elis are guaranteed a high seed. Each division sends one team to the annual national tournament. Seeding is based on the performance of the division’s entry the previous season. Last year’s New England division representative, the University of Massachusetts, had recently dropped from varsity to club status and excelled at the national competition.

This year’s Yale squad is led by player-coach Will Reid ’04 and captains Andrew Bassford ’04 and Doug Hausladen ’04. Though Reid has sat out the season thus far with two broken fingers, he will return to match play in the Williams Tournament this weekend. Standing at 6 feet 7 inches, Reid’s overwhelming presence in the pool can only supplement a strong roster.

Bassford was New England division MVP last year for his unrivaled talent in goal. Other key returning players include Hausladen, Garrett Morrison ’06, Dan Conner ’05, David Affleck GRD ’08 and Chris Van den berg GRD ’05. The team also expects contributions from rookies Bryce Kaufman ’07, Matthew Adams ’07 and T.D. Smith ’07.

Although three seniors graduated last year, Reid believes they are “easily replaceable,” calling this water polo team “the strongest squad since Yale water polo lost varsity status in 1991.”

With such a strong lineup, Yale hopes to place in the top four at the Club National Tournament in Texas.

To reach these high expectations, the team has been training intensely. The Bulldogs practice Monday through Friday for two and a half hours daily. Yale also competes in tournaments every weekend. Prior to the start of the season, the team took its annual 10-day trip to Toronto to train under Canadian Water Polo National Team star George Gross ’74.

So far this autumn, the New England divisional competition has been fairly light. However, the team is training for the tough competition it will encounter at the national tournament, especially California schools like California Polytechnic, the two-time reigning champion.

Yale’s only close game so far was against Williams College, which Yale beat 13-9. Despite trailing at first, Yale came back in the second half, switching to their “man-up” offense. Yale returns to Williams College this weekend for another tournament.

Yale also routed Trinity College, 20-2, Wesleyan University, 26-7, and the United States Coast Guard Academy, 21-5.

“Other teams are miles below us, but the games are important for beginner players,” Reid said.

Yale’s second home tournament of the fall is scheduled for Oct. 10 and 11 in the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.

“We are inviting top teams, like Dartmouth, Army and University of Toronto,” Reid said.