Quigley Leads St. Francis To Final Four
Cathal P. “Carl” Quigley knows what the game of water polo is all about. For 30 years, he has coached the men’s team at St. Francis College and has tasted much success in his tenure.
But the one achievement that has eluded the grasp of the Rockaway resident is a berth in the NCAA Final Four Championships. In their previous three visits to the Eastern Collegiate Water Polo Association Championships since 2000, the Terriers have lost heartbreakers and none more so than a 3-2 quadruple overtime loss to Princeton in 2004.
Earlier this season, Quigley wasn’t sure that a young but talented would be mesh into a title squad. Many seniors had departed after the Princeton loss.
The turning point was not a win but a series of losses in a tournament at California. On the plane ride home, the team had felt they played well in spite of injuries decimating the starting lineup. It was their acquisition of a never say die attitude that helped to put all the pieces together on November 13.
The Terriers held on to defeat the U.S. Naval Academy at the Eastern Collegiate Water Polo Association and advance to the NCAA Final Four Championships held at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
“It’s great. I’ve been coaching for 31 years through difficult times in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and now we jumped on to the national stage,” Quigley said from his office at St. Francis College
“This team felt like we got the monkey off our back.”
Whatever happens in the Final Four semifinals for his eleventh ranked team in the country against top ranked USC will not erase a magical season that’s been years in the making.
His commitment to pushing water polo as an athletic sport for young children and teenagers started with his love of the water as he patrolled the Beach 135 Street Shack as a lifeguard.
A graduate of the school with a B.A. in sociology, he knew of the rich history that St. Francis had with numerous Eastern Collegiate Water Polo Association title wins in the 1960s.
For Quigley, those difficult times were lack of support or low roster numbers for a program that went through a rough stretch when he took over the job.
As an assistant athletic director at the school, it was his dedication that kept him pushing for a successful program that mixes academics and athletics.
In the early 1990’s, Quigley energized the program by recruiting a mix of national and international players to fill the roster. The 2005 roster currently has players who range from Texas to Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Israel and Azerbaijan.
The Internet was just one tool to search for students who wanted to come to New York City according to Quigley.
“At the advent of the technology age, I seized it. I tell people who is especially from international countries that this city is a cosmopolitan city,” , who says most of his players arrive here on academic and not athletic scholarships.
“People can feel that they’re home here. If you’re from Russia and you need to find food, you can go to Brighton Beach.”
For those players who cannot afford the high rent apartments near the school’s Brooklyn Heights address, Belle Harbor has provided a home to many players throughout his coaching career. Quigley says the proximity to the beach and affordable rents is a good benefit to his hard working players.
“(Water Polo) is a rigorous schedule for a student-athlete. They will lift weights twice a week, practice four times a week and travel or play during the rest of the week,” Quigley explained about weekly schedule during the season.
This weekend, he is hopeful that his team can overcome the powerhouse USC team. Quigley heaps praise on his team for their sacrifice and commitment because they understand what it takes.
“The mindset is for us to win the national championship. Whether or not we are successful remains to be seen. But this is about the student-athletes. We want this program to help mold young men and take this success with them for the rest of their lives.”