The last time the men’s water polo team won an OUA medal was in 2004 — that was until last weekend when the team took bronze at the OUA Championships hosted by Queen’s in the ARC.
And while I didn’t get my own taste of bronze in the pool, I was still part of the victory.
Prior to my time working at The Journal, as the digital manger, I was a member of the Queen’s Water Polo Varsity team for two years. I’ve been playing since the ninth grade, and the sport became a part of my life.
While I was ready to contribute to the club for another year, I was stuck at a crossroads. To further my career in computer science, I decided to sacrifice water polo.
But I knew I didn’t want this to be the end of my time with the team as a whole. Before the season began, head coach Dave Hill spoke about my situation and he welcomed the idea of me still being involved.
So I was presented with an opportunity that I jumped at. Not only would I be able to practice with the team, but they wanted me to help manage the team’s page on the Queen’s Gaels website to feature the roster for the team.
Since I joined water polo at Queen’s, the team hasn’t advanced past the OUA quarterfinals. Coming into the tournament, we’d grown a lot as a team, but there was nothing set in stone.
The team ranked fifth out of six teams, and while we had some good wins against Western during the season, we had trouble closing out close games.
After finding out that Queen’s was hosting the tournament, the team motto was “medal or bust”, making Friday’s matchup against Ottawa a must win.
Early in the game, the team jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first quarter and never looked back, defeating Ottawa 17-4 to secure a spot in the tournament semi-finals.
With one more win we’d have the medal the team had been working so hard for all season.
For all the momentum we gained against Ottawa, we knew Saturday was going to be a tough matchup. Facing, U of T, the top-seeded team in the conference was never going to be easy, and the result reflected that.
U of T dominated from the first whistle, beating Queen’s 18-0. Rather than treat this game like a negative, we knew the goal of reaching the podium was still in sight.
When we shook hands with Toronto it was obvious they had respect for us, regardless of the score. The team wasn’t upset with the loss, instead it served as motivation.
After McMaster lost to Carleton in their semi-final match, we found ourselves in the matchup we’d always wanted. It’s been over 10 years since Queen’s beat McMaster, making the potential result that much sweeter.
The Gaels were ready and came out firing, taking a 4-0 lead off scores from Alex Cox-Twardowski, Hendrick Fang and Robby Arundel. Hendrick Fang had a really strong first half, and really opened eyes with a rocket-backhanded shot that extended our lead.
At halftime, the team had amazing momentum going into the rest of the game. When I looked over at the McMaster side, it was clear they were shocked by the quality of play we’d brought to the game.
The game wasn’t at all easy though. McMaster scored three goals in less than a minute, closing in on the lead at 8-3 mid-way through the final period. It was a game again.
During a stop in the play, coach Hill spoke quietly and confidently to the team, making sure not to panic.
Under the guidance he showed all year, the team was able to play with control, running out the clock to secure an OUA Bronze.
This was both a special moment for me as well the team. From the very beginning to the season to the last day of practice, I’ve seen how every guy individually and as a team had grown.
We’ve become one big family, hungry for the tournament and for a medal. When the players were presented with their bronze, it was a long time coming.
For every big save, battle for the ball and goal scored, it was part of a journey that I won’t forget. I might not get to play water polo competitively anymore, but I will always remember the drive for bronze.
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