TWp has been reporting with several other sources the still unconfirmed impending varsity status for Monmouth College’s water polo squad. TWp caught up with the club’s player/coach Tony Marino to find out what he knows about the team’s promotion and its recent national championship.
There are various reports that Monmouth water polo will become a Division III varsity program in 2013. What can you tell us about it? Is the school in the process of hiring a coach?
Our men’s team along with our women’s team will both be going varsity next year. It should be officially announced really anytime now, could happen within the next few weeks. I know the school is currently looking at candidates for the job, but have not yet hired anyone.
When did the school’s athletic program seriously begin considering making the club team a varsity squad?
To my knowledge, it began getting thought about this past spring, but everything really started to move along at the beginning of this fall.
Did you work with the athletic department to help them decide to establish the varsity program? Or if not you, was there anyone else part of the team who did?
No one on our team really had anything to do with it, the swim coach [Alex de la Pena] had our backs and was really pushing for the team to get moved up to the varsity level.
Share a little about the history of the club. Any traditional rivals? Any highlights you want to share?
The club was started in 2007 by a few guys at the school that played in high school, swam at Monmouth and really wanted to get a polo team together. In the Fall of ’07 the team joined the CWPA’s Heartland Division and took 3rd place in just its first season. Since then the team hasn’t looked back and has won 5 consecutive Heartland Championship Titles.
This past season we got our revenge on Washington U. (MO) when we beat them in dramatic fashion, 12-11 in Sudden Death Overtime for the National Championship. We would consider them a rival of ours since we have played them at each of the past four national tournaments, with three of the four games being decided by just one goal.
Where do the players come from? From which high schools?
Since the start of our team we have been known for our entire roster being from the Chicago area. From Illinois we currently have players from high schools such as St. Pat’s, Lyons, Naperville Central, and Waubonsie Valley. This was the first time in a while we have had a player from outside of the state, which was Raheem Brown who went to East Kentwood in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Has your national championship and news of your impending varsity status generated more interest in Monmouth, especially among Illinois and Missouri athletes?
It has gotten lots of high school players excited and interested in our program. We have always had a good amount of players from Chicago interested in the team, but this year has been even more than ever. Our team has never really had much luck with getting players from Missouri, but this year we are drawing in a lot of interest from the St. Louis area, which is great because there is a load of talent there. A good amount of recruits from Michigan and California have also been looking into Monmouth as well.
Tell us about your background in the game. Which high school and club? Which coaches influenced you most?
I started playing water polo my sophomore year…at Andrew High School, located in Tinley Park, Illinois, which is a suburb south of Chicago. During high school I played club for Poseidon Water Polo. The two coaches that have influenced and helped me the most would be my high school coach, Sigfredo Cruz, and my high school club coach, Joe Moran. Both of these guys really helped develop my game and helped make me grow into even more of a leader in and out of the water. I still talk to both of them and can go to either for any advice I may need.
Why did you choose Monmouth? Did you consider any other schools that have club or varsity water polo?
I choose Monmouth because the team was very good and talented, and the players on the team were a great group of guys. Also my club coach Joe Moran, played there and was one of the founders of the team so he really talked the school and polo program up. I didn’t really strongly consider any schools with varsity water polo, but I did want to go to a school where I could continue to play competitive water polo. The other main schools I looked at were Illinois State and University of Illinois-Chicago, but Monmouth just seemed to be the place for me.
What are your expectations for next season? Will the team retain most of its roster? Are you expecting any new players who will impact your program right away?
I don’t know a whole lot about the teams we will be playing next season, but we want to come in and be a competitive team right away. We are graduating four guys from our 15 man roster. We are returning a great deal of talent and important pieces from our team this past season so if we bring in a good recruiting class we will be a tough opponent for most teams.
Will the team be OK with its nickname being the Scots instead of the Crab People?
Great question! We will really miss the Crab People name as it has a lot of great history and is one of the most unique sports team names out there. But we understand this is the next step for the team and with the move the team will have to make the transition. It’s not something we will ever forget about because these were awesome years and the start of the team. The team now has many more years of even more great things to come.