The De Smet Invitational boasts not only the area’s best water polo teams but also teams from four other states.
The 21st annual tourney gets under way Thursday (April 11). There will be seven matches played. Action begins at 4 p.m. at Lindbergh High School.
The tourney switches to the St. Peters Rec-Plex. Games begin at 3 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s play begins at 8 a.m.
“There’s quite a bit of tradition for this tournament,” De Smet coach Taylor Swyers said. “We never get to play host since we don’t have our own facility. So this is kind of our one big weekend for the year.
“It’s nice that teams from Illinois, Texas, Ohio and even Florida are all willing to come and participate. I think that shows how good of event this has been over the years. This will be only my second year running it, so I just hope not to mess it up.”
There will be 12 teams playing this year in the round-robin tournament.
“Strake Jesuit (Houston, Texas) is not able to make it this year but we hope to have them back next year,” Swyers said. “Sycamore (Cincinnati, Ohio) will be returning, as will De La Salle Institute (Chicago), Stevenson (Lincolnshire, Illinois) and Fenwick (Oak Park, Illinois).
“Both Kirkwood and Ladue have joined the field this year. Both have strong teams and we are happy that they can join us.”
Other local teams competing are Parkway Central, Parkway South, Parkway West and St. Louis University High.
There are no easy, push-over teams in the tournament, Swyers said. Each program has a solid reptuation.
“As one coach told me when I released the schedule, he said ‘This is the tournament of death.’ With all of the travel and restrictions on who can play when, we are sticking with the same format from recent years,” Swyers said. “I play matchmaker and try to set up as many good matchups as possible.
“This sadly leaves us without a true “winner” but it does provide for good games and improvement all around. Typically one team will win all of their games and we can consider them the tournament champion.”
Coaches and officials do vote on an all-tournament team and tournament Most Valuable Player in order to recognize some outstanding individual play.
Facing new teams to compete against is good, Swyers said. Each team gets five games to play.
“The top six or seven Missouri Water Polo teams play each other frequently throughout the season, so it’s good to play new teams,” Swyers said. “But it’s also nice to play in a big pool with good officials and other team, coaches and fans watching. It’s fun all around.”
Swyers said some of the matchups that fans might want to see happen on Saturday night.
They would be Sycamore meeting Parkway South at 6 p.m. followed by Stevenson playing SLUH at 6:50 and then Parkway West battling Fenwick at 7:40 p.m.
The Spartans are off to a decent start, Swyers said. De Smet is 10-4-1 overall. The Spartans have played in a tournament this spring, winning the Pattonville Invitational earlier.
“We’ve been playing OK. It’s been an up and down season so far but there aren’t any bad losses on our schedule that I really wish we could have had back,” Swyers said. “It’s all about improvement and development for us. I feel we are on the right path though, so I’m happy with my group. (I’m) Excited to see how this season plays out.”
Several Spartans have emerged team leaders this season.
“We have three captains this year, with one of them a returning captain in Jay Dolan, Alex Pollmann and Teagan Thomas,” Swyers said. “However, our other two seniors Max Conway and Paul Woods are absolute rocks as well that I’m proud to have coached over all of these years. These boys all play club year round, and their ability to simply lead by example is huge for us. They really mesh well together.”
The tournament important to De Smet, Swyers said. The program takes a lot of pride in putting on a first-class event.
“This tournament is sort of what our program is known for,” Swyers said. “I’m very lucky to have stepped into such an already flourishing event last year. It’s important for our school, our parents, and our players, especially our seniors. We hold our Senior night on the Saturday evening after our last game, around 6 p.m.
“We have five seniors this year who all play big minutes and are huge members of our team. We really appreciate all of their dedication to the program and like to show them that.”