Graduate students take second chance at playing water polo

Abelina J. Nuñez
LV Life Editor

The La Verne men’s water polo team has two graduate students on the roster this year. After graduating with their bachelor’s degrees at the University of La Verne, they returned to get their master’s degrees and play water polo again. 

Goalkeeper Joe Lamson graduated in 2019 with a degree in kinesiology and is now studying as a physical education teacher. Lamson will finish his master’s in 2025. 

Center James Cano graduated in 2014 with his bachelor’s degree in business administration and is now studying in education. Cano will finish his master’s in 2024. 

Head coach Pat Beemer asked Lamson and Cano to come back and play for ULV. Beemer said he had multiple conversations with his coaching colleagues about having another opportunity to play again.

“We talked about, if we have one more opportunity to play, it would be so great to do it. And then now they have (Cano and Lamson) who are several years removed from the traditional playing time,” Beemer said. “I think it’s pretty cool that they get to saddle up one more time.”

Beemer said he was excited to find out that both players will return to La Verne to play.

“I’d seen Joe play a ton throughout the years, and I know he was a more than competent goalkeeper,” he said. “The truth is, I hadn’t seen James play, and he was a delightful surprise because he was a center sometimes when he saw the way down.”

Beemer said even though he has not seen Cano play, he heard from his coaching staff who has played with him at masters tournaments that Cano was a known quantity in terms of his ability.

Cano said he started playing water polo at Charter Oak High School and played for one year in college but stopped and has not been around the game for about six years. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he became a wildland firefighter in Wyoming and then Virginia, so he did not have access to water polo. When he was around 24 years old, he started playing again when he moved back to California. 

“I was just comfortable with La Verne,” Cano said. “I knew I had a better chance of getting in at La Verne as opposed to elsewhere.”

Cano said he has enough time to invest in school and water polo, but the only difference is that he has to take better care of his body due to his age. 

“I guess at 30, I think I’m way more grateful for this experience considering that I’ve had multiple 9-to-5 jobs and multiple different jobs where it feels like a grind,” he said. “I’m emotionally and mentally invested in school and water polo that I make very little time for my old friends, but I think they all know that I’m excited about playing.”

Cano said his plan after graduation is to become a history teacher, hopefully teaching high school honors classes. 

He said he still wants to stay involved in water polo through refereeing or coaching and plans to play after his graduate program with a recreational league in La Mirada. 

“What’s striking is that both of them have a very mild demeanor that they’re both hyper-competitive, but both bring a little more calm,” Beemer said. “It seems like a wealth of experience that they bring to the pool and a general demeanor that everybody responds to.” 

Lamson said he started playing water polo at Foothill Club Water Polo in middle school because his mom forced him to play. He said he hated playing at the time but his junior varsity coach at Bonita High School helped him enjoy water polo.

“I was more comfortable with coming back here rather than getting used to another school and having to worry about that,” he said. “That’s the main reason why I wanted to come here for the grad program.”

Lamson played his first year of water polo at La Verne but transferred to Mt. San Antonio College in 2011 and then transferred back to La Verne in 2016, finishing his undergraduate degree in 2019. 

“Being a grad student, it’s actually the polo that is harder, in my opinion, rather than the schooling because I’m kind of more critical about it,” he said. “When I was younger, I didn’t really care about certain situations as a water polo player, especially as a goalie, but now, since I’m older, I kind of have this weird respect for my energy now that I’m starting to get a lot more aches and pains.”

 He said it was a gift that he could come back and play.

“I think just coming back is such a great experience at my age because not a lot of people can say that they came back and were able to play in college at 30 years old,” he said. 

Lamson said he would like to teach at a community college, be an assistant water polo coach and hopefully become a head coach somewhere. He said he still plans on playing after graduating with his master’s degree and would most likely play with Cano at the recreational league in La Mirada. 

“I was excited about Joe,” senior center defender Gage Unsoeld said. “I’ve never seen him play before, but I’ve heard many other people around this area talk highly of him and then James. I didn’t really know much about him as a player, so I was a little skeptical, but now, seeing him play, I’m so glad we have both of them.”

 Abelina J. Nuñez can be reached at

Abelina J. Nuñez, senior journalism major, is a photography editor for Campus Times and staff photographer for La Verne Magazine. She previously served as LV Life editor, arts editor social media editor and staff writer. In Fall 2023, Nuñez was La Verne Magazine's editor-in-chief and was previously a staff writer as well. Her work can be found on Instagram @abelinajnunezphoto.

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