More Than A Club



Cal Poly Men's Water Polo is more than a club. Students come together and make the presence of water polo at Cal Poly possible. This takes sacrifice and effort, and that requires going above and beyond. A team is not formed, a team is made, like a piece of fiery metal cast into the cold waters by purpose and power. It can take a lifetime to appreciate such a masterpiece, so it's been put on display here and now. Remember it not because you have to, remember it because you simply wish you could have been a part of it. Here is a slice of it to digest, and to remember.



The Slideshow

These are the flashes of an immense, wet and exhausting reality. Individuals and certain friendships within the team are documented in this slideshow. They may be as pretty as can be, but these photos tell a stricter story. The flashes may outlast the true memories, but the rewards of teamwork are infinite. These were taken during nightly practice. Every night it's an about the balance of competition and community.

Compete everyday is something Cal Poly Men’s Polo puts to practice--literally. Practice serves as a stepping stone for each player and for the team. The ball swings around here in a sequence as players move the rock to open water. Communication and precise passing are vital to success in such situations. There is a duet of screams from both offense and defense. The ball reaches an open area at the goal line, and now the decision: shoot, pass or patience. Vision will provide the right answer in the form of defenders and goalie, or an open man in a good position. Zach Smith prepares to answer the question. The fifth year Civil Engineering major has one of the most precise and reliable shots on the team. Elbow high, chest out--he threatens the goal from a closeby position just off the post. Zach Smith hails from St. Louis, Missouri. Besides leading the team as captain, Smith is kind of a big deal. He’s the first one handed a cap in practice; he’s the first pick. “Trying to set an example for the younger guys. Keep the club going,” said Smith in regards to his role in the team. When asked to describe himself as a player, Smith said: “Fast, quick, driver.” He has a combination of speed and decisiveness along with skills and experience. Smith is very much the complete package. He thrives in areas closest to the goal as at outlet for team play and attack. Never more than a pool length away from Smith is Joe Hanacek--another fifth year, with a Manufacturing Engineering major from San Clemente, California. He boasts a cannon for an arm and has been Smith’s partner in aquatic crime since their freshman year. Regarding Hanacek, Smith said, “He’s a big bundle of joy.” Hanacek offered insight with his own laughing comments: “Hate-hate relationship. Can’t stand the dude.” Hanacek surely puts that hate to use in moments like the one above, when he treads and lines up a lightning strike from a distance. Don’t let the cap fool you, because underneath it lies a hairdo nearing resemblance to Star Wars’ Qui Gon Jinn. Nathan Golla, the fifth year team coach and Earth Science major from Long Beach, California stands on the pool deck with Tupac-esque command. A ll Eyez On Me. As a past player from the club, Golla knows how to effectively communicate with the boys. There’s a lot of water in between a coach and the players, which makes close discussions like this vital for team understanding. The team is a whole, but within it are different bonds like that of Smith and Hanacek. Another is between Harrison Woods (left), second year Construction Management major from Fresno, California and Jake Rasich (right), second year Environmental Science major from Tiburon, California. The two have formed a powerful friendship inside and outside the pool this year, according to Woods. “We like to push each other. We keep each other accountable,” Woods said. The two seconds years are both above six-feet in height with wingspans typical of swimmers. They’re builds and skills combine to make them unique players. As practice ends, the two chill out along the pool wall. Rasich is part fish. He is the one to beat during condition laps in practice. Swimming and water polo were both focuses for him during high school. Often polo players ditch the notion of competitive swimming, which has different aspects compared to the conditioning and intensity associated with the team sport. Rasich is caught in a flash-like moment during a counter-attack drill. If one looks closely, one can see the gills. Woods is no slouch for speed himself, but views his specialty as defense. He often operates as a center guard, the defensive position directly in front of the goal. This role requires strength and precision. Too much aggression usually leads to a kick out and six-on-five power play to the other team. With one arm up, Woods’ other arm is wrestling, his legs treading strong. “When I go in the pool, whoever I’m guarding, to dominate him,” said Woods, when asked what his motto in the pool is. One position stands alone and above the rest. The cage is three by nearly one meters in size. A lot of leg power and a whole lot of guts--a water polo goalie is never one to mess with. Luckily, Cal Poly’s boys have a worthy duo in front of goal. Tommy McGuire is seen here with his wings out to nearly his belly button in practice attack drill. The fourth year Civil Engineering major from Chicago, Illinois is an unforgettable character on the team. He and Dario Buechi are the team’s starting goalies. They often switch off on games or at halftime. Their connection in the pool transcends the game, as they’ve become close friends since their freshman year. McGuire believes his role in the team to be: “I think motivator--keeping everyone cohesive.” His gametime creed is the zone. “I like to stay in the zone at all times,” he said. The traditional red goalie cap doesn’t serve McGuire much distinction, since he’s natural redhead. Buechi is the other end of rope. Originally from Berkeley, California, the fourth year Business major, he’s an equal goal-stopping force. Over a week ago, however, Buechi suffered a minor concussion and is currently keeping himself out of the pool. “I just wanna be in super bad,” Buechi said. “Everyday it gets a little better.” Regaining the confidence won’t be a challenge though. He’ll hopefully return to full speed in a week’s time. While he’s been out, Buechi’s seen through a new perspective. In regards to what’s most important for the team, he said, “Trusting each other. Not playing hero-ball.” Then, on his friendship with McGuire, Buechi commented: “Obviously we spend a lot of time together. We both realized quickly we were gonna be committed to the team. He’s really good. He pushes me everyday. We push each other. Practice is full of stories, with its characters and with its challenges. It is an extremely constructive time, and that can be rough for some. The message at the end of the day, though, is to always keep going. Just keep swimming. “Trusting each other,” as Buechi said.

The Video

As it's been made clear, the team is a collection of amazing individuals. Students, parts of a team, they are common titles but of course far from ordinary. Spencer Harrison is by no means easy to forget. His slick slab of hair and radiant smile are legendary, just like his massages. This video shows off Spencer's skills that he uses in the pool and also on dryland as the team's designated masseuse. His knowledge and touch are a gift to never pass up as a arm-sore swimmer.


The Voices

Cal Poly Men's Water Polo Club is a wealth of storylines. Among the usual topics of sport and glory, there are underlying themes that go beyond the elements of chlorine and dedication. The team goes through the season both together and on their own: the hours away from school work, the endless pool laps and flip turns, the day-by-day perfection of tactics. Such Herculean efforts bring out voices, voices from the unseen depths. Rare insights are heard in these sound bits from players about their thoughts and reflections.

The Origins

If you have an itch to look back and hear some context, you've found the right place. This is a lengthy compilation of context, and fun. Poly Polo has a past to explore through this Storify. It sums of the background and illustrates the waves in an ocean that travel as one team forever. The famous Cal Poly Men's Water Polo calendar can be witnessed below.




The Demands

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"Suck a little less, be the best you can be. That's it, right?" -Jack Brown