Leave the rivalry on the deck

Theresa Edwards

Kent State students join the University of Akron’s water polo team to play

Kent State alumnus Scott Westhoven blocks a shot at the intramural water polo practice yesterday evening. The Kent State team joined forces with the University of Akron water polo team after being unable to practice in the Student Recreation and Wellness

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Kent State used to have a water polo team, but about three years ago its practice pool in the Gym Annex was closed, and the team had to relocate.

The Student Recreation and Wellness Center was unwilling to close their pool to the public in order to allot practice time for the team, so Kent State’s water polo team joined forces with the University of Akron, said Scott Westhoven, a 2004 graduate of Kent State and previous member of the water polo team.

Water polo is a sport similar to soccer. Players tread water in a pool during the game passing the ball between team members trying to get an open shot.

The pool at the rec center is not adequate for water polo anyway, Westhoven said. He explained the dimensions of the pool are a lot smaller than the dimensions of a tournament pool.

“I’m playing with Akron and encouraging students at Kent to play with Akron’s team,” he said.

The previous Kent State team played against the University of Akron in tournaments, so Westhoven said he thought moving the team to Akron would be a good idea. He also said his high school coach told him they should be able to play there because the University of Akron accepts community members on their team.

When the University of Akron’s club was originally formed, it was only for Akron students, said Adam Crabtree, a junior at the University of Akron and its water polo club’s president.

“Since water polo is kind of a non-traditional sport, they struggled,” Crabtree said.

The University of Akron eventually changed the constitution, he said, and allowed community members to start playing. He said he likes that community members can play because they bring a lot more experience to the game. The University of Akron’s team has 15 continually active members, Crabtree said. They bring a different perspective to the game because they’ve been around so long, he said.

“We could not field a competitive team without them,” he said.

Westhoven said he used to run the club at Kent State before it was shut down. The students from Kent State’s team went to Akron to play.

Though the University of Akron is trying to get more student enrollment because the school helps fund the program, about half of the players don’t attend the university, Westhoven said.

Westhoven is the only Kent State connection still playing with the University of Akron’s team, he said, because the other Kent State students have graduated and moved on to other places.

Students from Kent State are welcome to play on the University of Akron’s team, and the Akron water polo team’s Web site says the only requirement for participation is that players know how to swim. Players from all levels of experience are welcome. Westhoven said the team used to carpool and drive to Akron for their practices twice per week, but students lost interest when they had to start traveling.

Community members who play at the University of Akron pay double dues in an effort to keep more university students playing, Crabtree said. It has allowed them to help keep players around, he said.

The team often gets members who drift in and out attending some practices and tournaments depending on what time of the year it is. The University of Akron’s previous club leader, who recently relocated to Baltimore, plans to come back this weekend for a tournament, Crabtree said. It happens frequently.

The team wouldn’t mind having a few more Kent State members.

“Our attendance from Kent has been down,” Crabtree said. “We’re definitely looking for more players any time.”

Contact features reporter Theresa Edwards at [email protected].