Water polo places fifth in tourney

by Richard Petty | 11/12/96 6:00am

The Dartmouth polo team wrapped up its season this weekend at the National Water Polo Club Championships held at Northwestern. The team entered the tournament as the third seed, but ended up finishing a somewhat disappointing fifth place.

The Big Green entered the tournament as the top team in their bracket and played a strong first game against the University of Maryland, the ninth ranked club in the nation, defeating Maryland 17-5.

The Big Green entered their next match against Northwestern with confidence and with some extra encouragement from Bob Ackerberg '32, one of the last surviving members of the Dartmouth squad that won the national championship in 1931 and attended this year's tournament to cheer on the Big Green. Unfortunately, the 1996 squad was not fated to achieve that same level of success.

The Big Green came out flat versus Northwestern and that coupled with dubious refereeing left the team with an early deficit. Though Dartmouth came roaring back, they came up short in the fourth quarter, losing 12-10.

The loss dropped the Big Green into the fifth through eighth place bracket. Stung by the loss to Northwestern, the team was ready to play Williams, an opponent they had already defeated twice this season. But fate struck the Big Green another blow.

Goalie Kevin O'Neil '97 broke his finger during the second game and missed his first match of the year. Nick Gansner '97 was unable to play due to a 102 degree fever and Zac Holt '98 was benched due to a one game suspension for brutality against Northwestern.

But the return of Coach James Wilson, who had been coaching the men's swimming team at the Canadian-American Challenge, energized the team.

Despite the weaknesses, the Big Green rallied and demonstrated exactly why they were ranked number three in the nation. Backup goalie Matt Nelson '00 turned in a powerful game, starting for the first time and proving that the future of Big Green polo is still bright. Although the game was closer than the previous two victories over Williams had been, the Big Green triumphed 10-8 and led throughout the game.

The team then faced Texas A&M for fifth place in the tournament. Tired and still missing Gansner and O'Neil, the team faced an uphill battle playing a strong game against an equally talented opponent. The Big Green came out ahead, though, winning a close 12-11 match.

The tournament leaves the Big Green as the fifth ranked team in the nation with a 17-5 record overall and a 16-2 record versus other club teams. The team will return to the pool in the spring ready to begin the quest for glory in 1997.