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September 27, 2022

55-Plus Men’s Polo Team Claims National, World Title

Morgan Hill – The Tri-Valley Spartans 55+ water polo team netted
two major achievements this year winning the USA Men’s National
Masters in San Diego, and also the World Championships held at
Stanford.
By Paul Doherty Sports Editor

Morgan Hill – The Tri-Valley Spartans 55+ water polo team netted two major achievements this year winning the USA Men’s National Masters in San Diego, and also the World Championships held at Stanford.

Coach Lee Walton, who led the San Jose State men’s water polo team from 1961-1970 to two American Amateur Athletic Union Championships and a National Intercollegiate Water Polo Championship, said his role with the Tri-Valley Spartans is conversational than anything.

“At this point it is a totally different situation because many of the players have been coaches,” Walton said. “So there are a lot of team contributions, and its a team effort.”

The Tri-Valley Spartans are made up of players from around the South Valley, but they practice at the Morgan Hill Aquatic Center.

People who come and visit the aquatic center are amazed with the facility, Walton said.

The 55+ Spartans, who play other teams of the same age group, beat a Stanford team last year to capture the National Masters title.

There is no specific league that the Spartans play in, and their record is based on the their wins and losses in tournament play.

After winning the National Masters the Spartans defeated two German teams in the Water Polo World Championships to capture the 55+ world title.

“The world championship win was extrordinary,” Walton said. “Water polo is as big as soccer in Europe, so a lot of the larger athletes gravitate towards Polo instead of football or basketball…so it’s not uncommon to face guys who are 6’8″ – 250lbs..”

With players like Mike Monsees who was an All-American polo player at San Jose State in 1960’s, Bruce Watson who is the head water polo coach at West Valley College, and Steve Hamann who was coached by Walton from 1970-72 at San Jose State also, it is no wonder this 55+ water polo squad wins so much.

Haman was named the Most Valuable Player at last year’s National tournament, Watson was named the most outstanding field player, and Laure Gross and Monsees both were named All-Americans for their outstanding tournament play.

Mike Monsees is also a water polo coach at Leland High School.

With he oldest player Bob Neely, 63, and a total of five players over 60, trying to coordinate schedules for team that plays 15-20 games a season was the key to success for Walton.

We would go through spurts where I think I’ll have the team together, but you can easily get hurt at this age and maybe its months of recovery, Walton said.

“Each guy has to get himself geared up to play,” he said. “We actually never had the entire team together last year and guys were working out separately due to scheduling, so there was a lot of communication.”

At 73 years-old Walton is a firm believer in staying active and fit.

“Even old people can regain strength,” he said. “I broke some ribs a few months back and didn’t do anything for about three months, and then I started lifting weights and I’ve regained a lot of strength since. Now my team kind of looks up to me as an example of staying fit…I think I’ve inspired them.”

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