After unexpected challenge, the Mustangs water polo team finished in fifth place at the OUA championships.
This past weekend, the top six teams in the province met at the Western Campus Recreation pool to battle for the championship title.
The Mustangs knew that taking the top spot would be a tough feat: the University of Toronto Blues have dominated Ontario University Athletics for four consecutive years now. Additionally, with a number of well-matched regular season games against Queen's University and University of Ottawa, Western's competition was close.
“All the teams in the OUA have really improved in the last few years,” said Mustangs head coach Bill Terzis. “It was quite stiff competition.”
However, the Mustangs didn’t expect to endure a loss so soon into the tournament.
In the quarter-final game, the Mustangs took on the McMaster Marauders and fell short by a single point.
The Western team showcased their high-level defence, but failed to match their performance on the offence.
“We started getting frustrated when the shots weren’t going in,” said Terzis. “This led to taking bad shots instead of keeping composure and passing the ball cross pool in order to get better shots.”
After an exhaustive game of playing on the backfoot, the Mustangs lost to the Marauders by one point in a final score of 8-7.
This was a tough loss for the Mustangs team. The high ambitions they had going into the tournament were quickly extinguished, and the loss immediately sent them to the consolation round.
But they rallied: the Mustangs identified their shortcomings and came back to face the Ottawa Gee-Gees, aiming at redemption.
A number of key players showed up strong in their crusade against the Gee-Gees.
As a newcomer, Rick Vermeulen was offensive dynamite — he scored 12 of the Mustangs 28 goals in the game. In light of his performances, Vermeulen was named the OUA all-star team at the conclusion of the championship.
Prized veteran Victor Brancus also played a dynamic offensive role. Brancus scored another four goals for the Mustangs, as well as a number of points in assists.
All in all, the Mustangs completely dominated and at the end of the game, the score sat 28-10 in favour of Western.
“We beat Ottawa U 28-10, we crushed it,” said Terzis. “Though it was just a little too late.
A convincing win is a good way to conclude any season, however the team remains disappointed with their premature loss in the tournament. They came into the championships ranked fourth, but had the ultimate goal of exceeding those expectations.
“It was great to finish on a big win," said Terzis. “But it was sad to be in that game when we believe were much more capable of going further in the tournament.”
As the group moves into off-season, they are already looking forward to finding redemption at the OUA championships next season.