Water polo is somewhat of a forgotten sport at Mercyhurst. With no pool on campus, it fits the definition of out of sight, out of mind. If fans want to see the Lakers play, they have to travel to Gannon University, Mercyhurst North East or Penn State Behrend, to name a few recent sites of men’s and women’s water polo home games.
This is the first challenge Mercyhurst water polo seeks to overcome each year.
The next challenge is the division Mercyhurst plays in. The Lakers are in the Western Division of the Collegiate Water Polo Association, which is unlike the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference where most Mercyhurst teams call home.
The PSAC is comprised of only Division II schools and features schools of relatively similar size like Edinboro and Slippery Rock. In the Western Division, there are both Division I and Division II schools. Mercyhurst will have to face rival Gannon as usual, but also Division I powerhouse Michigan. In the division, three teams are ranked nationally.
In order to prepare for this level of competition, smart scheduling is key. Robinette does his best to mix the Division I powers with other Division II schools for non-conference games.
“We start at a disadvantage in the division, so we need to skew our expectations a little bit,” Robinette said.
Despite the challenges facing the Lakers, they have still competed well in the division this year.
The men’s team posted a program-best 18 wins in the fall, while the women’s team holds a 9-7 overall record just past the halfway mark in the schedule. The Lakers focus on their conditioning and style of play to get them past the tough competition.
Since the team practices and has its home games at Gannon, the Lakers have one advantage after all. The pool at Gannon is a shallow-deep pool. This type of pool is smaller than those at the larger schools, and with a smaller pool, teams cannot space out like they traditionally would.
The Lakers can use that to their advantage.
“Our practices mimic game situations to help prepare the mental side of the game,” Robinette explained.
Rachel Griepsma is leading the attack for the Lakers. The two-time All-American has tallied 38 goals and 48 total points in 16 games. Griepsma is one of 10 upperclassmen on a team of 18. This type of experience is a major contributor to the team’s success.
“You can’t teach maturity and experience,” Robinette said.
With half the season over, the Lakers hope the experience and leadership from Griepsma and other upperclassmen pays off. The Lakers have two important divisional games coming up, both with playoff implications. The Lakers will take on IUP and Bucknell on the April 8 and 16, respectively.
A home game against Penn State Behrend is next up for Mercyhurst–this one Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Gannon.