A 9-6 loss to Tufts in the 2009 Division III National Club Championship had Sophomore Josh Dunn convinced that Monmouth was primed to win it all during his collegiate career.
“Oh yeah,” the Lyons Township (IL) grad responded. “We had the goal of the national championship since my sophomore year,” and news of the promotion was “a big motivation” in the championship match.
For him the process was even more exciting. Adam de la Pena, Monmouth’s aquatics director, had floated the idea of Dunn becoming the college’s first ever varsity water polo coach. The idea seemed doomed to start. But the details were soon hashed out.
The soon-to-graduate Dunn would report to de la Pena and continue to assist the men’s and women’s swim teams. Dunn was handed tactical command of the water polo squads, while de la Pena set the strategic direction of the larger aquatic program — a symbiotic relationship where two sports so often with clashing personalities and goals work together.
This was the design from the beginning, when de la Pena actively pushed the administration to add water polo to the school’s offerings.
“Water polo and swimming go hand in hand,” he said. “For the growth of both programs it makes sense.”
Recently Monmouth had been recruiting very good swimmers, according to the coach. But for various reasons, including many of the typical water polo vs. swimming conflicts, they were often quitting to play water polo. Now the goal is to have 75% of the athletes participating in both sports. de la Pena is making it easy for aquatic athletes to do both, and the athletic department has bought in to the strategy.
So in a remarkably short period the Crab People have become the Scots, a young coaching staff is in place, and Dunn is spending evenings handling recruiting inquiries from both West and East Coasts, plus the school’s target markets: Michigan, Illinois and Missouri.
He admitted this was not how he saw things working out during his time at Monmouth.
“I didn’t have many goals,” with the water polo team, he said.
“We wanted the club to be successful. We were thinking of moving out of the Heartland Conference [for collegiate clubs], going to a new level of play.”
And now they will, with Dunn at the helm.