MIGUEL RINCAND | Reporter
The Lindenwood men’s water polo team hopes new recruits will help win its fourth national championship after last season’s early elimination.
After dominating the tournament and winning three consecutive national championships from 2014 to 2016, the Lions ended ninth in the nation last season. For the team, this season is about reclaiming its place as No. 1.
“Our goal is for the rest of the teams to respect us again,” said Edu Ariste, a senior right wing. “We’ve been national champions for three years, and last season wasn’t the best, we have to get back to the top.”
This season, the Lions have received their biggest recruitment class in years. Because of this, Coach Dave Miller had to separate the team in three divisions, the black, gold and white teams.
“We lost a couple of our key players last year to graduation, but we have several young guys coming into the system that are very good players,” Miller said.
Miller said which team players are on is based purely on skills; black is the A, gold is the B, and white is the C team.
“My philosophy is that we put the best skills players in the best team,” he said. “If you’re a freshman but are the best in your position, you will be on the A team. To me that promotes work ethic and rewards the people that have put in that work and effort.”
So far this season, the Lions have a record of 13-3-1. On the weekend of Sept. 29, The Lions defeated the University of Missouri and Washington University to win the Missouri Valley Division Championship tournament for the seventh time in a row. The win gave them a ticket to the 2018 Collegiate Water Polo Association for this upcoming weekend in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Lions will look to win their fourth national title in the last five years at the 2018 CWPA Men’s Division I Club Championship after their early elimination against California Polytechnic State University in the first round last year.
“We have to go with the right attitude and prove that we are Lindenwood champions like we were for three years in a row in prior years,” sophomore Sean Welch said.
The championship will have a slight change this year as the Atlantic Champion and one of the strongest teams, United States Naval Academy, chose not to attend the tournament.
For attacker Andreja Babic, the teams to beat in this tournament are Cal Poly, because it was the team that knocked the Lions out of the competition last year, and San Diego State, because they are the national champions right now.
The Lions will start the competition by facing the champion of the Mid-Atlantic Conference, Villanova University, on Friday. If Lindenwood defeats Villanova it will advance to the next round and clash against the winner of Oregon State and defending champion San Diego State.
Miller said anything less than the championship would be a disappointment because the Lions have the capacity and skill level to repeat what they did two seasons ago.
For people that want to keep up with the tournament, the CWPA is providing live, pay-per-view streaming coverage of the entire event. It costs $10 per game or $25 for the weekend pass that allows unlimited viewing of the tournament.