-- Chad Conlin had a choice to make. A few of his fellow
seniors on the Tomball water polo team were headed to Texas Tech
University to play on its club team, but Conlin had an offer to
make his own waves at Whittier College in California and its NCAA
Division III water polo program.
The factors in consideration were numerous – location, cost, academic and athletic opportunity, social transition, among others.
In the end Conlin decided his college experience would be best shared with those who made his high school years memorable.
"I got a scholarship to go (to Whittier College), but it was pretty expensive," Conlin said. "I decided to go to Tech. I figured I would have just as much fun with all my friends there. Our goalie from last year went there and said he was having a lot of fun there. Basically our whole senior group is going. We figured it would be fun to all go together."
Conlin, awarded the 2010 TISCA state Most Valuable Player after leading the Cougars to their first state championship game, was offered an academic scholarship with a place on one of Division III’s top water polo teams at Whitter.
Conlin said the scholarship would cover less than half of the total cost, leaving him and his family with more than $20,000 to account for each year.
Tech has also offered academic scholarships to Conlin, as well as a chance to likely play with familiar faces on its club team.
While players must make the cut for the select travel team Conlin, Damien Hines, Parker Denman, Collin Chambers and Steven Spratford could be Red Raiders next season.
"It’s great for Texas Tech," Tomball water polo coach Scott Slay said. "With those kids they're going to have an excellent opportunity. They’re getting some really good athletes. They've scratched the surface of what they can do. It's exciting. I'm glad they get to continue to play. They love it."
The Tech water polo club is part of the Collegiate Water Polo Association, which includes NCAA varsity teams.
The Red Raiders play in the Texas Division against the University of Texas, the University of Houston, Baylor, Rice, Texas A&M and Texas State.
While the club teams participate in a separate competition, Slay said the National Collegiate Club Championship is comparable to most varsity tournaments.
He has coached several players who have advanced to the collegiate level, NCAA and club alike.
"The thing about this sport is there are opportunities for these kids to go do something with it when they get out, which is pretty awesome," Slay said.
Conlin progressed enough in the pool to merit a spot on a Whittier College team that was ranked No. 1 in Division III at the end of last season.
He was one of the top scorers on a Cougars team that finished 25-4 and was a goal away from the state title.
"Overall I think he was averaging over four (goals) a game," Slay said. "Being state MVP he was definitely one of the best kids in the state. I wish I had him for another year. I wish I had the whole group for another year. I’m really proud of what he did. He just worked hard all year."
Conlin was equally dedicated in the classroom and plans to study environmental science at Tech, the same field he planned to pursue at Whittier, a liberal arts-centered institution.
He could share classes with Tomball teammates, such as future roommate Chambers who plans to study geology.
As for water polo, Conlin hopes to continue the remarkable run his fellow seniors had at Tomball.
Just three years into the program the Cougars are already two-time state semifinalists and gained a regional championship in 2010.
"It’s pretty crazy," Conlin said. "Our freshman year we didn’t even have a real team. We just played pick-up games and stuff like that. Everybody got super committed to it and got down to business and ready to win. It was a really big turnaround from freshman year until now. It's amazing to see what we’ve done and how much we’ve accomplished."
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