By Samantha Thompson
From broken fingers to hernias to knee injuries, the UC Santa Cruz’s Men’s water polo team has been battling obstacles since the beginning of the season.
"You name it, we have it," coach Randy Whitchurch said.
The team struggled to stay afloat this past weekend, losing on Saturday to California Baptist University 14-10 and again to UC Davis on Sunday 10-7, bringing their losing streak to four.
"Our ability to play as a team broke down," said co-captain Grant Shubin about the loss to Davis. "That’s why they ran away with it."Injuries have been the most prominent problem for the Slugs, as a number of key players have been unavailable to play in games.
Senior co-captain Justin Garver tried to play with a broken finger earlier this season, but eventually succumbed to the injury and had to sit out a number of games. Now Garver’s backup, Angel Martinez, who has been affected by a hernia, may be out for the rest of the season.
Another starter, Joel McKown, has been sidelined due to persistent flu-like symptoms lasting over two weeks.
"We’re having a problem keeping people healthy," Shubin said.
According to junior attacker K.C. Drake, injuries have not been the team’s only problem, as inconsistent play has also been hard to combat. "I think there have been a lot of individual mistakes and then the other team capitalizes on that," Drake said.
Although the team was ranked 18th in the nation as recently as two weeks ago, the team’s current losing streak has pulled their ranking down. With nearly half the team comprised of freshman, coach Whitchurch believes that the newcomers just have to learn the ropes but that overall, the young team looks promising.
Shubin agreed. "We have the ability to beat a top-10 team," he said. "We’re just trying to get it to work all together at the same time."Even though the scoreboard has not always been in the Slugs’ favor, there has been some excellent play coming from the pool. Shubin acknowledged in particular that goal-keeper Joe Lyons has kept the team in on a lot of close games.
Garver added, "I think we’re just looking for overall improvement and getting better as a team."
The players and coaches hope that the hard work and long hours of daily practices will pay off with a strong performance in the upcoming Western Water Polo Association tournament.