Sports / The Prairie Fire / September 30, 2009

Burning Squirrels thrive in water

Knox has burning squirrels swimming in the pool inside Lay Natatorium.

And this past weekend, the Burning Squirrels — the water polo club team — traveled to Monmouth, Ill. to compete in a tournament hosted by the Monmouth College Crab People and held inside Pepper Natatorium.

Knox, a member of the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA), plays in the Heartland Division, along with Midwest Conference rivals Monmouth and Grinnell and four Minnesota schools — Carleton College, Saint John’s University, Macalester College and Saint Mary’s University.

Knox fields a coed team, which competes in the men’s division and just began their season in Monmouth. Knox also fields a women’s team, but they do not start competition until March. They play in the women’s division.

“A few teams still don’t have enough men to field strictly men’s teams,” senior co-captain Sara Dreiser said. “It does make a difference, because there are a few teams that are all men.”

The men and women who make up the Burning Squirrels (1-3) coed team defeated Macalester by a score of 8-7 and lost to St. John’s, 20-2, Carleton, 11-5 and Grinnell, 16-4, in the tournament.

“I was really, really proud of the entire team,” Dreiser said. “We definitely did better than I expected us to do. We played smart. We made sure everyone had a chance to play — that worked out really well for us.”

Twenty-seven Burning Squirrels played in the tournament, which is the largest team Knox has ever fielded. The club began in the spring of 2003.

“We have barely been able to field a team the past few years,” Dreiser said. “It is exciting.”

Another exciting thing is the fact the Burning Squirrels improve after each game, according to senior Chandler Harris.

“What I liked the most was every single game we played, we got better,” said Harris, who is the team’s other co-captain, the goalkeeper and current leading scorer with four goals.

Despite the fact the team got better in every game, there are still things they need to do to improve.

“I think what we need to do first is get better at passing, not just in terms of dry passing,” Harris said. “When the person has the ball and is under pressure — not panicking. Keeping your eyes open. Keeping your head turning around so we can see. If we can get better at that we will be scoring more goals and winning more games hopefully.”

Taking advantage of penalty exclusion fouls will also help the team score some goals.

“Those are normally pretty good scoring opportunities,” Harris said. “We squandered a few of those away so we need to improve on our conversions there.”

Working together is another thing the Burning Squirrels need to do to get some goals and wins.

“One thing I noticed was a lot of people knew what was supposed to go on and knew what they were supposed to do, but the timing was not in sync,” Harris said. “The passes were too early or too late or in the wrong spot.”

Experience or lack of it is also a factor. The team lost four players from last year’s team to graduation and one, junior Kelley O’Connor, is studying abroad.

“In the past, we ran our offense through Kelly. So, it is definitely an adjustment to play without her this season, but I think we have adjusted really well playing without her,” Dreiser said. “Experience helps you. We have a lot of players who have never played before or much before. As the season goes on and we have more than two weeks to practice, then we will be in better shape.”

Despite the fact, the Burning Squirrels have things they need to work on and some of them lack experience their coach, Jonathan Powers, is satisfied with the progress they have made since they started practice.

“I am really pleased with how hard everyone has worked,” he said. “They look like a team.”

If one did not have a chance to travel to Monmouth to see the hard-working Burning Squirrels in action last weekend, then one may have missed an opportunity to see them play other schools, unless one feels like traveling to Minnesota to watch them when they compete in their next tournament, which is Oct. 10 and 11.

However, one can always wander over to Lay to watch them practice or try playing if one wants. It does not matter how good of a swimmer one is or if one has played before. The Burning Squirrels practice at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and will welcome you with open arms.

2009 coed roster

Sara Dreiser ‘10 – Co-captain

Chandler Harris ’10 – Co-captain

Ailya Hayks ‘13

Alice Nicholes ‘13

Katelynn Schlaman ‘13

Tom Clark ‘13

Anna Claypool ‘13

Anne Heberle ‘12

Tory Kassabaum ‘12

Laura Blue ‘12

Sarah MacDowell ‘12

Bekah Bally ‘12

Kevin Lillie ‘12

Alan Ning ‘12

Anna Dvorak ‘12

Tyler O’Neill ‘12

Kathrine Miller ‘12

Jeff Wickman ‘12

Adrienne Wagner ‘12

Brittany Prague ‘12

Julia Shenkar ‘12

Sergio Ulloa ‘11

Edel Vaca ‘11

Carina Schroeder ‘11

Emilie Perrot ‘11

Zack Lazar ‘10

Lu Yaegar ‘12

Kaylin Maanum ‘10

Matthew Wheaton

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