Apr 182006
Authors: Sean Star

What sport mixes aspects from soccer, swimming and wrestling? The answer is water polo.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, water polo players are often considered some of the world’s best athletes because of the physical demands placed on their bodies by treading water the entire game, while at the same time trying to gain position to score. In fact, players say most of the action happens under water where spectators can’t see.

The sport on a national level continues to increase in numbers much like the CSU men’s club team.

The club team’s co-captain Steve McVicker describes water polo as, “the toughest sport out there.”

The water polo team finished 5-6 last fall, placing them fifth in the southwest region of the Collegiate Water Polo Association. The season was the most successful ever for the club.

Freshman Matt Atkinson led the Rams last fall. Atkinson, an animal science major from Orange County, Calif., received all-American honors for his impressive performance in the pool.

Atkinson plays hole-set, a position compared to center in basketball. After playing water polo on the West Coast for seven years, he immediately noticed a vast difference playing in the Rocky Mountain region.

“At-home competition is way different,” he said.

Despite his success, the freshman considers his involvement in water polo more of a hobby than a dedication – as do the other players on the team.

“I mainly focus on academics,” Atkinson said about what his priorities will be during the upcoming fall season.

In addition to the competition, Atkinson said that higher altitude and playing indoors made competing in Colorado different than on the Pacific coast.

Australian exchange student Eli White was another outstanding player for the team last fall. White played goalie for the Rams and will graduate next year.

Also lost to graduation was the head coach from last fall. When the job became vacant, McVicker grabbed it with the goal of having the program rejuvenated.

“I stepped up because I love this game,” he said.

McVicker plays goalie for the Rams and looks forward to attracting more players to the program. He also plans to raise enough money to travel to California next year to play in a tournament.

Last season, the team played with a total of 17 players, six of which were new to the team. Four more incoming freshmen have already committed to play for the squad next year- two from Colorado and two from Illinois.

Junior Rollin Hills, who plays the offensive driver position, views players within the state as an “untapped resource.” Hills thinks the team should make an extra effort to attract local players to play for the club team.

“We’ll always get players from California, but getting them from Colorado is even better,” he said.

New players are always welcome on the team and experience playing the sport is not necessarily required.

Although their regular season is over, the men’s club team will take on the CSU women’s varsity team at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Moby pool.

“It will be a good game to come and watch, kind of like an exhibition thing,” McVicker said. He also added that the women will make for “good competition” because they “practice and play a lot more.”

Sean Star can be reached at sports@collegian.com

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