Sights sets on podium finish at home

Queen’s prepares to host OUA Championships this weekend

The men’s water polo team is preparing for the OUA Championships this weekend.
The men’s water polo team is preparing for the OUA Championships this weekend.

When captain Ian Pinchin joined the men’s water polo team during his first year at Queen’s in 2010, he didn’t expect to have a six-year run with the team. However, after finishing his undergraduate degree, Pinchin decided to stay at Queen’s for his Master’s degree and continued to play for the team he’s spent more than half a decade with. 

This Friday, the Gaels will host the 2016 Men’s OUA Water Polo Championships at home, and the tournament will mark the end of Pinchin’s career with the Gaels. 

For their season, Queen’s has spent a long time adjusting to the physicality and speed of the OUA game. At the Queen’s Invitational Tournament hosted in October, the team placed fifth. 

“We would have liked to come away with a few others but overall we are a much better team now than we were at the start of the season and we feel good going into the weekend,” Pinchin said.

At the upcoming championship, all six teams in the OUA have qualified, with Queen’s seeded fifth. Toronto and Carleton have received first-round byes, but a win against Ottawa in their first round, quarter-final will secure a position for Queen’s in the final four.

The bracket of the 2016 OUA Men's Water Polo Championship. Graphic by Rachel Liu

Going into the tournament, Pinchin knows that for Queen’s to have a shot at the podium, they will need to beat McMaster. 

McMaster is one of the top teams in the league, and as such, has consistently produced difficult matches for the Gaels. “They’re always really solid and they have some good players. They’re around the same level as us but they’ve been able to close games better than us,” Pinchin said. 

Pinchin hopes for a Queen’s victory, but with a team as tough as McMaster, it isn’t guaranteed. “For the past few seasons, we just haven’t beaten them. We’ve had some really good games and some close games, but they’ve for whatever reason been able to close out against us better than we have against them.”

However, Pinchin is still wary of the dangers of looking past the team’s initial competition in the tournament. “Our quarter-final game is against Ottawa U and we don’t really know what they’re like,” he said. 

The team’s game plan for their first match, and subsequently the rest of the tournament, centres on simplicity. “We want a game plan that suits our game, so we’re really working on forcing the defense into positions that are suitable for us,” Pinchin said. “Water polo is a pretty simple game, and we just want to keep practicing what we’re doing so that we can be in a position where we dictate the game.” 

Pinchin says the Gaels have a strong team for the tournament this year, due in part to the depth of the roster and the members’ chemistry with one another. 

A strong defense and strategic power plays will be key in a Gaels victory this weekend. “Our defense has been really good at times throughout the season. We usually find a way to put the ball in the net, it just sort of happens, but we play our best when our defense is really clicking and everyone’s in tune,” Pinchin said. 

Pinchin sees consistency as a weakness that the team must address going into the tournament. “We’ve had quarters where we’ve been beating the best team in the league, we’ve had quarters where we’ve blown leads, we’ve had quarters were we’ve come back,” Pinchin said. 

“It’s really about not having a slow start and just playing a focused four quarters and not letting our guard down. If we can string together four quarters, we’ll be successful,” Pinchin said. 

The OUA Championship begins Friday, November 25 and runs until Sunday, November 27. 

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