Polo team dominates Florida tournament, looks ahead to nationals

Senior Alan Groll stretches to block a ball during Tuesday night’s water polo practice. Zach Beeker // Stafff Photographer

Sandy wasn’t the only storm in the water this year – there was another group of hurricanes making waves.

The UM Water Polo Club traveled to  Corvallis, Ore. for the National Collegiate Club Championship hosted by Oregon State University.

The Canes went into the tournament ranked third in the country, and kicked the weekend off with a 15-6 win over No. 14 Vanderbilt.

Miami went on to lose its next three matches in the tournament, finishing eighth in the nation.

The club had previously competed at the Collegiate Water Polo Association state tournament at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, where the team claimed first place. Miami beat the top-ranked University of Florida team 7-5.

“This is an amazing accomplishment. I’m so proud of our team,” club president Anthony Kanelidis said.

This is the second time the club team has won a state tournament since it was  founded by Jimena Lopez, a former player and the current coach.

“Considering we had lost to UF twice this season, it was great to beat them in the game that matters,” she said.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, the club has practiced at the UC pool with other club teams in the county such as Riptides and FIU.

That helped the team become faster, stronger and a more cohesive unit in the water.

UM was seeded sixth going into the state tournament. The club beat both FGCU and FSU before heading to the championship game.

“Juan Lopez has been the backbone of the team in practice and during games,” graduate student Chris Bauerlein said. Whenever we want more points, we just feed him the ball.”

Lopez, on the other hand, emphasizes the need for strong teamwork in the pool.

“Water polo is a team sport, and if it wasn’t for all us working like a machine, we would have never made it,” he said.

The team is proud of its accomplishments this season, but is not entirely satisfied.

“We celebrated, but now it’s time to focus on the bigger goal and that’s winning nationals,” Kanelidis said.