In the small town of Milford, Ohio, the name Matulis can be found echoing in the halls of Milford High School, specifically, in the natatorium. Matulis is the name that is synonymous with “Champions,” “Leadership,” and “Respect.” Both Dan and Dave Matulis continue to utilize these three terms as they have left Ohio and continued to the next level in their water polo career.
Both boys, Dan, currently a junior at Long Beach State University and Dave, a freshman at Mercyhurst University, decided to take on the challenge and play at the collegiate level. They both fell in love with playing water polo at the high school level in Ohio and wanted to take on even bigger challenges
During his high school career, Dan was recruited to play for numerous collegiate teams. When Dan graduated from high school in 2010, he decided to take his talents to the west coast, playing for Long Beach State University. He believed it would be a great opportunity to play against the best players in the country. “I enjoy playing at an elite level because it pushes me to become the best player I can possibly be. Playing college polo is an extreme commitment, but it is worth it.”
Dan initially was redshirting his freshman year but soon was getting playing time due to injuries of upperclassmen. Making an immediate impact to the program, Dan played in 18 games his freshman year and scored 17 goals, including a game high of three goals against Stanford in a 9-8 loss.
His sophomore year was even more exciting, finishing 2nd on the team in scoring and 23rd in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). During 2012, his junior year, Dan helped lead his team to a 5th place finish and a 28-4 record. He was named 2nd Team All-MPSF and scored 69 goals.
Dan describes his best collegiate water polo experience to be upsetting the University of California at their home pool this year.
“It was the first time Long Beach State beat Cal in their pool since the 1970s. It was a huge win for us, and it was special for our coach who played at Cal, and one of our teammates, who transferred from there,” said Dan. Dave graduated in 2012 and decided to play at Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA. “I could not picture myself stopping after high school, and I wanted to play at a higher level to challenge myself more,” Dave said. Dave was immediately absorbed in the competitive atmosphere the Lakers had to offer. During his freshman campaign, Dave was found being one of the first off the bench, scoring 15 goals and 10 assists for the season. Mercyhurst was a runner up at the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s (CWPA) Southern Championships and 4th place finish at the CWPA Eastern Championships. The program also finished ranked Top 20 in the country for the first time ever with a historical season high of 23 wins.
Dave’s best experience so far came from his team’s trip to a tournament in Claremont, California where his brother was going to be playing. This was the first time Dave would be able to see his brother play at the college level. “The California tournament was also a huge turning point for us in the season because from there we went on a 10 game winning streak following that trip including wins over Harvard, John Hopkins and Princeton,” said Dave.
While they don’t get to see each other too often, they make sure they talk, email and text as much as possible. Their parents, Rick and Jan, can often be found traveling to their son’s events. Often, events for both boys happen on the same weekend. During the weekend of the CWPA Southern Championships, Jan could be found at Bucknell University in Lewisberg, PA supporting Dave while Rick was found on campus at Long Beach State watching Dan’s final regular season games. Both Jan and Rick also attend Milford High School games where their daughter Lindsay is a sophomore
Dan played for the USAWP Olympic Development Program (ODP) in the winter and spring here in the Midwest. He believes that this was extremely helpful to get acknowledgment from collegiate coaches. Dave believes it is important to play on club teams in the summer.
“Certainly playing with the ODP team and playing for Rockford (club team) at the Junior Olympics helped out alot.”
When asked what he would do differently if he were to go back to his high school freshman year, Dan mentions he would work on conditioning even more both in season and out of season. In giving advice to the next generation, Dan states “I would have tried to hit the weight room more and would have tried to find more pool time to play polo instead of just swimming.”
Playing at the next level has been an eye opener to both Dan and Dave. In both of their interviews they use the phrase “water polo is your life” at the college level. While there is a lot of training and intense academic requirements, there still is a social life. Both spend many hours with their teammates training, studying and in some cases living with them. What Dan has gone through and what Dave will experience is something they both hope can be delivered to the current players in Ohio. Both Dan and Dave look forward to giving back when they land back in Ohio after college.
There are many stories out there about brothers who have separated to take on their own journeys, but this one is different. The Matulis brothers and their family have surrounded themselves with the sport of water polo but in completely different parts of the country. West Coast, East Coast and even Midwest, the Matulis brothers have made an impact to this growing and highly competitive sport. They miss Ohio and can’t wait for their trips back to tell their story where it all started at the Milford Natatorium with the terms “Champions,” “Leadership,” and “Respect.”
Read more about Dan and Dave here.
Reprinted with permission from ohiowaterpolo.com