Water polo club climbs national ranks to No. 17

By and

Men’s water polo at the U took a historic turn this season by landing in the collegiatewaterpolo.org top 20 for the first time in the history of the program.

Boasting a season-ending No. 17 national ranking, the water polo squad looks poised to make itself a national power in the years to come.

The group finished the year with a 9-3 overall record, losing only to No. 2 Arizona in all three losses. The Utes came closest to beating the Wildcats in their third meeting of the year last weekend at the conference championships.

The conference meet for the southwest division of the Collegiate Water Polo Association was a success for the U, with the exception of its final game against Arizona. The group advanced through the initial rounds without dropping a game until the finals.

In the end, the Utes took second place in the conference. The team was excited about the finish because second place marks an improvement on last year’s third-place finish.

The conference tournament started with an easy game for the tough Ute squad against the Colorado School of Mines. The team blew the Miners out of the water with a 23-0 throttling.

After winning a confidence builder in the first round, the U advanced to the second round to face No. 16 Colorado. At the time, the Utah club was ranked only No. 19, making the matchup a critical one in the team’s bid for the conference championships.

The Utah squad played one of its best games of the year by shutting down the Buffalo scorers. U goalie Sean Liguore played a great game, allowing only three goals. The Utes grabbed the momentum generated by the strong defensive play and came away with a surprisingly easy 7-3 victory.

Team captain A.J. Baucum, who led the team in scoring this year, called Ligoure the “best goalie in the league,” as he accredited the victory to the team’s excellent play defending the goal.

In the third round, the Utah squad faced another regional nemesis in Utah State. The game wasn’t ever in question as the Utes came away with a 16-10 win.

By completing the preliminary rounds with a 3 0 record, the Utes were finally forced to face the highly touted Arizona Wildcats.

After two consecutive losses to the U of A in the previous weeks, the team knew it would be an uphill battle.

At the half, the outcome was still in question with the Utes hanging tough, down only 4-2. But the second half was a different story.

“They just opened it up after that,” Baucum said. With their defense breaking down and unable to generate many more points, the struggling Utes were thoroughly humiliated in the second half, finally losing the game 12-4.

In the wake of a successful season, the club now looks forward to next year. With goals of finishing in the top 15 and winning the conference, the Utes have a lot to prepare for.

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