Name: Jennifer Burt
The Southern Utah University water polo team is jumping straight into the deep end, so to speak. The club, just in its first year, is preparing to host the National Water Polo Championships November 12-14.
The sport’s championship rotates venues every year, and SUU’s superior facilities – it’s the only indoor pool big enough and deep enough in the region – gave it the upper hand in securing the honor of hosting this year’s tournament.
But players and coaches are most excited about the fact that as host, SUU is guaranteed the chance to compete for the championship with the nation’s top teams. SUU is the first team ever to host the national championships as a first year club, and the entire team is anxious to get in the pool with the likes of Yale, UCLA, Colorado, Texas and Michigan State.
Team coach Blair Bentley originally hoped SUU would be chosen as the site of a regional championship, but the choice as national championship site came as a huge surprise.
In fact, no one really knew about the selection until team captain Greg Barnes scanned the Collegiate Water Polo Association website and saw Southern Utah University listed as the 2010 host. Shocked, he called Bentley to confirm what he was seeing.
Bentley was also surprised, but after a few phone calls the selection was confirmed, and both coach and captain began to realize that the big boys of collegiate water polo would be coming to Cedar City.
Barnes is ready to take a shot at the sport’s elite programs, “I’m very excited to play at such a high level. It will definitely be a lot more physical, but we’re ready for the challenge.”
Barnes’ attitude is indicative of the entire team’s determination to compete. Players have already had to sacrifice a lot just to get to this point, with each player putting in long practice hours in the pool and paying out of their own pockets to compete in tournaments.
Bentley is very proud of the dedication his team has shown, “We got destroyed in our last match, but my guys were all breathing heavy, hearts beating out of their chests and smiling. They love the game.”
The University and community share Barnes’ and Bentley’s excitement for the tournament, pledging their full support to make sure the event is a success. The SUU Student Association has already committed funding to help the team cover costs associated with the tournament, and the city has offered to host a pre-tournament party for all the athletes and coaches.
SUU will start the tournament off with a match against first seeded UCLA Friday, November 12, at 9 a.m. Depending on the outcomes of the matches, SUU will play either Oregon or Yale in their next match.
Tickets are $20 for a three day pass, $15 for a two day pass and $8 for a one day pass. SUU students, faculty and staff get half-price tickets.
More information regarding the tournament, teams and schedule can be found online through collegiatewaterpolo.com.
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