Practice makes perfect. Or, in the case of this club team, it maintains perfection.
The Georgia men’s club water polo team is coming off an undefeated regular season in Southeast division play. With exhibition matches scheduled for the spring semester, members of the team continue to meet at the Ramsey natatorium to improve their skills.
“It’s a time when we take advantage of learning more things,” said Luke McGrory, a junior defensive player from Westville, New Jersey. “We do a lot more drill work and breaking things down.”
Offseason practice is normally an integral component of player development, however it is even more so this season due to the departure of senior leadership following Georgia’s bid to the 2015 national tournament in Santa Cruz, California.
“Losing them left a hole, which people filled, but we’re not quite there yet,” McGrory said. “We’re a young team. I think next year we’re going to be a strong team.”
The future looks bright for a core group of young players who were mere seconds away from receiving the same bid for 2016 nationals, this time held at the University of Notre Dame. Second-ranked Clemson scored with no time left on the clock to upset the favored Bulldogs in the divisional tournament finals.
“This year our freshman class was excellent,” McGrory said. “We’re a young team and we’ve got a lot of room to improve and a lot of room to grow.”
He cites the 2015 divisional championship season as a contributor to the team’s recent success both in the pool and in leading the underclassmen.
“I think it was more established what our goals were,” McGrory said. “We understood that we were a national-caliber team.”
The journey back to that level of success entails nights like Nov. 8 when the team meets at the diving well of an otherwise deserted natatorium to play. Without coaches or much organization, it is evident that players like McGrory have a genuine appreciation for the game that they hope will translate into another strong season.
The team is now able to focus on the spring exhibition matches ahead and the clean slate that arrives alongside them. Newer players will see increased playing time in an effort to further prepare them for next fall.
“We have kids that are new and they come out and they play great,” McGrory said. “The more the merrier, we want more guys to come out.”