Water polo club takes 4th in Midwest Championships

By Jeff Aronin

Water polo, a sport quickly gaining popularity in this country, is also NIU’s newest club.

The sport, which was always dominated by European countries in the Olympics, began to grow popular in the United States during the 1970’s and has experienced even more attention with the recent success of the U.S. Olympic team.

The club originated at NIU last year but didn’t play its first game until this season. The team ended its new season with a 7-3 record after a fourth-place finish at last weekend’s Midwest Championships at Northwestern.

Entering the season as an unknown, the Huskies knocked off such Big Ten Conference foes as Purdue, Wisconsin and Michigan. These victories, coupled with their first-place finish at the University of Illinois tournament, earned the squad a bid to the Midwest Championships.

The Huskies, who have a 17-man roster, are led by a strong defense and goalie John Costello. The team’s offensive attack is led by John Stelnicki and Chris Kerstin, who both average three goals a game.

The Huskies would like to host the Midwest Championships next year. They will work this off season to prepare for their projected five tournaments next semester.

“We plan to train hard and become a stronger team,” Kerstin said. “Water polo is a sport that demands a lot of endurance.”

The Huskies, undefeated against Big Ten teams during its regular season, foresee a bright future.

“We have a lot of guys that never played before,” Kerstin said. “As they learn and we grow, we’ll get even better.”

The club intends to host a tournament in April and plans to invite the top schools in the area. One of the club’s goals is to be the Midwest champions.

“We have a very young team and are not losing many players after this year,” Kerstin said, “so I feel we have a good chance to improve our record.

“Unlike other teams in the Midwest, which are dominated by a few individual standouts, we just have a disciplined team that works together. We teach basic fundamentals but don’t take the fun out of the game.”