While the Spartan football, basketball and soccer teams flew east to Maryland last weekend, Michigan State’s club water polo team went the opposite direction, playing for the national championship at the University of Utah.
The Spartans, competing in the Collegiate Water Polo Association, earned a spot in the 16-team tournament after winning the Big Ten Championship at the University of Indiana. That weekend, they topped their archrivals from the University of Michigan in the championship game.
The team was ranked fifth in the nation going into the tournament. They began their weekend against Ohio State, looking to avenge the football team’s loss the previous week. Michigan State jumped out to a 5-3 halftime lead, but Ohio State clawed away and tied the score at 6-6. Fourteen seconds into the fourth quarter, Ohio State snuck a shot behind Spartan goalie Tom Meyer to take a 7-6 lead. This lead would hold for the remainder of the game, as the Spartans could not get another shot past the Buckeye goalie.
The Spartans’ weekend was not over, however. They marched through the consolation bracket, notching a decisive 17-7 victory over Iowa State and eking out a 12-10 nail-biter against Florida State. They were placed in the ninth place game against host Utah, where they lost 10-8.
Meanwhile, the Lindenwood Lions won the national championship, topping San Diego State by the score of 13-8.
Not many first-year coaches can say they led their team to a Big Ten Championship and 10th place finish in the nation, but Matt Latham did so this season for the Spartans. He had the help of talented senior captains Josh Jackson, Nate Case and Austin Daugherty, who provided stellar leadership throughout the year.
Nevertheless, with many skillful underclassmen returning, the Spartans should be a force in the Big Ten for years to come.
Ryan Cole is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Max King/Impact Sports