Swimming to silver in Ottawa
By John Dinner
It was the Ontario University Athletics water polo championship match-up everyone expected McMaster versus Western. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, it was Mac who ruled last Sunday in Ottawa, leaving Western with the silver medal.
Heading into the championships, the two teams were favoured to meet in the finals with ownership of the two best records during the regular season.
"They won one at home and we won one at home, so I would say we were pretty even going in," said McMaster coach Tim Ormond. "At a neutral site it was going to be anybody's game. We knew we were in for a tough, hard fought game."
The Mustangs got to the finals on the strength of great individual efforts, including a six goal performance from veteran Rob Clarke in the semifinals against York.
However, it was the better team game played by McMaster which eventually brought them the gold, as they swam to a 10-7 victory.
"We played well but we have played better in the past," explained a disappointed Karol Maar, who was Western's leading scorer throughout the season. "Individually we played great, but in the final we could have played better as a team."
Maar, who has been counted on for the bulk of the Mustang offence, was also very critical of his play.
"I didn't play as well as I would have liked," Maar said. "The loss is tough right now, but when I look back, the silver medal is something to be very proud of."
Mustang coach Chuck Smith said he felt the difference in the final came down to how each team took advantage of key opportunities.
"They got some bounces that went their way and they didn't miss any easy shots," Smith said. "We would hit the post or [McMaster's] goalie would make an unbelievable save and they were able to capitalize on all their opportunities."
Western's individual talent was evident by the fact that four players were named to the all-star team, while only one player from Mac got the nod.
"Western has a number of exceptional players but my whole philosophy is that this is a team game," Ormond said. "No individual is going to lead this team, it's going to be a total team effort. That's what I think is needed to win and I think that was proven this weekend."
The lack of depth on Western's part made a difference in the game as Mac was able to weather a late surge by the 'Stangs to secure the victory.
Failing to cap off the season with gold was tough for Western and left mixed emotions with many of the athletes.
"Western has never won a water polo championship so it would have been nice for the program," said Clarke, who was named Western's athlete of the week for his performance. "The loss is pretty tough to swallow right now, but down the road, this season and our silver will be something I will look back at with pride."