UB's Water Polo Club treads way into Collegiate Water Polo Association

Club enters national association after five years of campus presence


It started in 2010 with six friends that liked swimming and had a vision to bring water polo to UB.

The students wanted a team at UB but didn’t have the resources available. They didn’t even have enough money for two goals.

Now, the UB Water Polo Club has blossomed into a program playing in a national water polo association and one that made history this past weekend.

The UB Water Polo club hosted its first tournament as a member of the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) on Saturday and Sunday. The team went 1-3 in matches against Colgate, Syracuse, Cornell and Hamilton in the deep end of Alumni Arena’s Olympic-sized pool. This was the first of many matches the club will compete in as the season extends into the winter.

“When I first started it wasn’t what it is now,” said Jake Habermehl, the club’s assistant coach and former member. “It started off with probably about six or eight friends who liked swimming. They didn’t even know anything about water polo. They messed around and built some PVC nets.”

Since 2010, the club has been on a steady climb. Its membership has risen from about six to 21 during the past two seasons.

The club’s gets a budget of roughly $2,500 from the Student Association. And that money has already gone a long way to ensure the longevity of the program. The budget allowed the team to buy new nets, balls, headgear and most importantly its membership with the CWPA.

Getting the club to where it is today was no small feat. Habermehl could attest to the club’s growth since he began playing in 2011 – only one year after the establishment of the club.

Back then the team only had one net at its disposal. And since the sport required two nets to play competitively, some college-style ingenuity was the only alternative.

“We would put up mats,” Habermehl said with a grin. “The thing is it’s so expensive and with club budgets it only made it harder. Every year they give you a set budget and as you go on your budget grows depending on the club’s success.”

In the early stages of the club, the team yearned for competitive play – but there wasn’t much competition to compete with due to lack of schools with polo programs in the area. But they were able to find a team at the University of Rochester that had a water polo program.

It was a perfect fit.

The team began playing scrimmages against Rochester. Like UB, Rochester was a growing team. But the Buffalo club was far and beyond better, according to Habermehl. He said it was great practice because Rochester was “really bad.”

UB Water Polo President Ben Harper, a junior aerospace engineering major, said the CWPA schedules tournaments though the NCAA for varsity programs and individual clubs. “The National League has 13 divisions and the New York Division has 12 teams, which is pretty big,” Harper said.

The New York division is made up of big contenders like West Point and Cornell, which are the top two in the state at the moment. Harper said those teams are some of the best in the country, not just New York State.

The UB Water Polo Club, being one of the newest members of the league, wants to leave an impression this season. But with a large amount of players new to the sport, the team is just trying to get used to its new level of competition.

“For over half of our team this year, this is their first year playing and we’ve only had three weeks of practice,” Harper said. “We’re building right now. Winning is always nice but we ultimately want to see development from our players. All things considered though, we’re here to have fun and that is just as much of a priority as anything else.”

The ultimate goal for the club will be a national title, but it doesn’t expect that any time soon. The club is expected to develop its players in hopes that, one day, that dream could essentially become a reality. It’s not the club’s main goal for this season, but Harper said the opportunity is “out there, but you gotta reach high.”

Practices are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Any UB student can join.

Tomas Olivier is a staff writer and can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com.