The members of the SIU club water polo team aren’t exactly sure how the sport got its name.
The team’s eight full-time participants do, however, agree that water polo is a game that combines elements of wrestling, football, soccer and basketball, and shows very little resemblance to the sport played on horseback that shares its name.
But don’t mistake the team’s lack of historic knowledge of the sport for a low level of experience. They’ve got plenty of it.
Eric Engleson, a sophomore from Arlington Heights studying physical education, said only two members of the team are new to the sport, a rarity for a club team that doesn’t get a lot of publicity.
Engleson, club president, said some of the team’s players have been playing for six years.
Tim McDaniel, a sophomore from Buffalo Grove studying architecture, said a strength of the team is six of its members are former high school and college swimmers.
“Not many people swim well,” he said. “People need to be water-confident in order to do this sport. I swam my freshman year so that I could have the endurance to play.”
The team will travel to Oxford, Tenn., for the Dogwood Tournament this weekend.
The tournament, held by the University of Tennessee, is the team’s first of the season and will feature club water polo teams from Northwestern, the University of Illinois and Ohio University, Ingleton said.
Ryan Lazara, a freshman from Glenview studying business, said the team practices several times a week in preparation for the tournament.
“We swim about 2,000 yards per practice,” he said. “We swim to keep our endurance up, and we also do leg work to build strength, and then practice shooting and running our offense.”
Lazara said the physicality of the sport differs from any other. He said he has seen multiple injuries while playing, including broken jaws and noses, elbows to the face and claw marks that resemble something horror movie mainstay Freddie Krueger would leave behind.
The claw marks are actually something that officials try to control, McDaniel said.
“You have to cut your nails,” he said. “They have nail checks before every game.”
As it turns out, the team was accurate in its view that polo and water polo are not at all alike. The Collegiate Water Polo Association states the name “water polo” actually developed from originally being called “water rugby,” a game that mirrors the physicality of the one the team plays.