Thursday, October 12, 2000
As the lone men's intercollegiate water polo team in the state, the Chaminade University squad toils in relative obscurity in an already obscure sport.
stay afloat in
mens water polo
By Brandon Lee
Special to the Star-Bulletin
The Silverswords do not belong to a conference, though they are members of the Western Water Polo Association, a 14-team group almost exclusively from California.
None of the other schools in the Pacific West Conference -- the NCAADivision II conference in which Chaminade's other sports teams participate -- have water polo programs. The Silverswords must travel to the mainland for all of their games and do not even have a pool to call their own.
Though the school does provide water polo scholarships, there are no recruiting trips. All contact with potential players is done by telephone and e-mail.
Despite these difficulties, the program instituted in 1985 treads on under second-year coach Bruce Black. After a 6-12 campaign last season, the Silverswords have rebounded with a 6-3 mark following yesterday's 16-13 overtime win at Occidental College.
It was the first of nine games in five days on the Silverswords' second and final road trip of the regular season.
Chaminade has just 10 players on the traveling roster: six field players, one goalie and three substitutes. The Silverswords typically play two games each day on their road trips against teams with much larger and more well-rested rosters.
"Recruiting and scheduling are difficult," Black admits. "Having to travel for all of our games and then playing so many when we do, is like sailing into battle with the enemy resting on the beach waiting for us to arrive."
Sophomore team captain Petar Samac agrees.
"The highest level of competition is in California,'' said Samac, a native of Croatia. "Of all the teams we play, it is hardest on us. The road trips are energy-consuming and require time management. And sometimes we cannot beat teams we should beat because we're just too tired."
Samac, the Silverswords' top scorer last year, again leads the team with 32 goals.
He alternates between the hole-set position (much like a center in basketball) and driver, a perimeter position.
The young Silverswords also get major contributions on offense from freshmen Konstantinos "Deano" Haidemenahis and Christoper "Frenchy" Aliziar.
Haidemenahis, originally from Greece and the primary hole-set, is second on the team with 31 goals, while driver Aliziar, from France, has tallied 19.
Senior Bran Sherman of Haleiwa anchors the defense as the Silverswords' goalie.
The rest of Chaminade's roster includes three players from California and three from Hawaii.
Often outsized and outmanned by their competition, these chlorine-saturated devotees practice every weeknight from 8:30-10 p.m. at the University of Hawaii's Duke Kahanamoku Pool, the only time the facility is open to them.
In between their road trips, the Silverswords often scrimmage Rainbow Aquatics, UH's club team.
Despite the numerous physical and geographical obstacles in Chaminade's path, Black and the Silverswords are optimistic about the future of the program.
Chaminade will host the WWPA championship tournament next month at Kamehameha Schools, with the winner receiving a berth to the NCAA championships.
As the host, the Silverswords receive an automatic bid to the eight-team WWPA and are looking to make a splash in the competitive postseason tournament.
"Having a winning season is definitely one of our goals, but finishing in the top four of the WWPAs is another attainable one if we really push ourselves," Black said. "We'll need some luck to beat the top teams in the tournament because they can compete with any of the top programs in the nation like the UCLAs and USCs.
"But anything can happen if we get past some of the lower teams."
Black, a former player at Punahou School and UCLA, has also set what he considers lofty but realistic goals beyond this season.
"I want to build a bigger, more successful program and improve the caliber of water polo overall here in Hawaii," Black said. "Our state has already produced a couple Olympians (Chris Duplanty, Sean Kern, Maureen O'Toole) and with our good weather conducive to training year-round, water polo has a big future here in Hawaii.
If the sport continues to grow, I don't think it's unreasonable to think that we will eventually have an NCAA championship team from a school in Hawaii."