“Every year teams head into the season with some level of expectations.
Certain schools enter the year with championship-or-bust expectations, while others just want to win one game. The men’s water polo team, they were somewhere in between to start the year.
“We are a young team, so we didn’t have big expectations going into the season,” said Coach Curtis Robinette. “The main goal was to bond as a team.”
For a team just looking to bond, the Lakers look very good at the midpoint of the season.
Losing All-American Andy Sekulski was a big blow to the Lakers but one they have taken in stride.
“We have a lot of guys who lead by example but are not as vocal yet,” Robinette admitted.
Currently sitting with a 7-4 record and a sterling 6-0 in conference play, the young squad appears to be coming together.
The team, however, has gone through its fair share of adversity. Entering the North/South Invitational on a four-game winning streak, the Lakers suffered four losses in two days.
“We needed to refocus and reset our team goals,” said Robinette. “They were winnable games, but the losses help refocus the upperclassmen, and it will trickle down.”
The refocusing didn’t take long as the team swept the next weekend over Washington and Jefferson College and Salem International. Both wins were conference games, and the Lakers only have four conference games remaining.
On a team with only eight upperclassmen and one senior, there will be a reliance on the younger players to help carry the load.
Sophomore Brett Luehmann is certainly carrying his portion. The Lakers’ leading scorer from last season is again leading the team with 31 points.
“Brett’s success in the pool will really help us in the future, as well as right now,” Robinette said of the sophomore.
Since the team does not have a home pool on campus, it helps the team develop a certain mentality. The Lakers call the Mercyhurst North East Aquatic Center home.
“We have a road warrior mentality,” Robinette said. “We have a certain comfort level going places that other teams might not expect.”
With the young players beginning to take large strides in the pool, the loss of Sekulski seems even less significant.
Even though there is an eye on the future, the present is going well. The Lakers are finishing up the conference schedule with four games in three days.
They will wrap up a positive September with a match against rival Gannon University on Sept. 30.