Despite being a Division III team, Chapman men’s water polo frequently competes against Division I schools, like Harvard University, whose water polo team defeated the Panthers 18-3 on Sept. 16. Earlier that day, University of California, Santa Barbara’s water polo team defeated the Panthers 23-3. After these losses, the Panthers look to bounce back and improve their record this season.
“You can really learn a lot from some of the (Division I) teams as they work together better as a team,” said Graham Asalone, Chapman’s lead scorer. “You just have to look at the little mistakes you make (while playing) and they definitely expose them.”
The main reason Division III men’s water polo teams have been playing Division I teams is due to popularity of the sport itself. Since there is a lack of teams the men’s water polo team can play, Division III teams are often matched up against teams outside their division, he said.
“Water polo is very different than soccer and football and basketball,” Ploessel said. “There’s only maybe 50 total teams in Divisions I, II, and III (combined) … I have no other option.”
When playing against Division I teams, Chapman’s players use the opportunity to prepare themselves for facing other Division III teams, said Vasil Halchev, junior center.
“I think it’s a learning process,” Halchev said. “(Playing Division I teams) pushes us to play at a harder level and a higher intensity.”
Ploessel said he encourages his players to embrace the challenge and develop as a team. By playing some of these Division I teams, both Ploessel and Halchev said the main takeaway from these games is the experience.
“Harvard is different,” Ploessel said. “A lot of the sports on campus would love to play Harvard.”
Although Division I teams are higher-ranking, Ploessel said that the main difference between Division I and Division III teams is rigor rather than skill.
“There’s a talent gap,” Ploessel said. “(Division I teams) have more depth of talent. I might have one or two (players) that could play or even start for some of those teams.”
Since Division I teams begin practicing earlier in the season, they have an advantage because they are in better shape, Ploessel said. Because Division I teams are allowed to host games and events during the offseason, their players remain in continuous training, unlike members of Division III teams.
“We could have been there,” Ploessel said. “We just needed to execute a little bit better. We are just trying to get better every single day and learn from each other.”
The men’s water polo team will play Claremont College Sept. 19th.