Joe Allen, Parkway West (Andrew Jansen |

Andrew Jansen

Simply put, Joe Allen was a brick wall last Saturday night. Allen, the Parkway West water polo goalie, stood tall and proud against a vaunted SLUH lineup in the Missouri Water Polo state championships. Allen treaded water for the entire 37 minutes as the Longhorns came away with an 11-10 victory in sudden death. “You watch movies, and it’s kind of like every athlete’s dream to go out and win state your senior year, especially in this fashion,” Allen says. “It just went back and forth and back and forth and fortunately for us, it went forth at the perfect time.”

It was Chandler Klemm who scored the winning goal in sudden death to give the second-seeded Longhorns the win over the top-seeded Junior Billikens. SLUH was the defending state champion and had defeated Parkway West two times earlier this season. If Allen and company were going to turn the table on the vaunted Junior Billikens, then a new approach to their attack was needed. “When (SLUH) came out and beat us at our home, that was the first time we had lost at home in a long time,” Allen says. “It showed they wanted this as much as we did. We knew this was going to be a battle and that hopefully we would match up again at state and put the nail in the coffin.”

Allen played spectacularly at times in the title tilt and registered 11 saves in the victory. “I’ve been trying to hit a groove all season,” Allen says. “Some games have been better, some worse. It’s been harder this season.”

He was particularly brilliant in the second and third quarters and during the overtime periods. “You do what you do every time,” Allen says. “If you come up with the save, you make it. If you don’t, you don’t. Fortunately, I was able to make some tonight. My team has my back when I don’t make them.”

Allen earned first-team Suburban West All Conference honors this season. He had the top goals-against average in the area this year with 6.06-per game. Allen’s success has come at an alarming rate. He didn’t start playing the sport until his sophomore year. “Joe is awesome,” says Parkway West coach Charlie Cutelli. “I had him in biology, and he was a soccer goalie. I told him he needed to come out and try water polo. He came out and didn’t play much his sophomore year. We got him to play in the offseason, and he really came on the scene last year but was simply phenomenal this year.”

Allen knew the Longhorns had enough physically to compete and defeat the Junior Bills. But to a man, more attention needed to be paid on what goes in between their ears in order for them to achieve their goal. “The biggest thing all year for us has been our mentality,” Allen says. “We’ve always known that we’ve had the skill; we’ve always known that we’ve had the ability. But our mentality has always been something we had to focus on. The seniors have always made sure we had the best speeches ready and always made sure that we’re in the zone. We took what everybody had to say to heart.”

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then the Junior Bills should take stock in the Longhorns trying to mimic them.“SLUH is a fantastic team,” Allen says. “They play together year-round on the same club team. There are so well-gelled. They are the true aspect of a team, and I think that was our main goal. That’s why we weren’t able to beat them the two previous times, because we weren’t as much of a team. We didn’t have the chemistry that we needed.”

Defensively, the Longhorns’ main objective was to try and contain SLUH standout Sam Erlinger. Allen and company felt if they could not allow the standout senior to blow up, then the Longhorns would be in good shape. “We know that they don’t have very many outside shooters,” he says. “So we know as long as we shut down the hole guys, Sam Erlinger or Chris Favier, then their offense is basically halted. We were able to do that with Josh Emde and Adam Manders, our primary two-meter guards. Josh got two kick outs because he was going so hard. We had to shut (Erlinger) down. If he got a shot off, hopefully I’d save it.”

From the start of the season, the Longhorns were tabbed as one the teams to beat this year, and this year’s senior class has heard about its potential for three seasons. “I thought (winning state) was more of a sure thing at the beginning of the season than in the midway,” Allen says. “This has been a dream of ours since our sophomore year, when people where telling us how good we were going to be. It’s been in the back of our mind.”