By Catherine McFarland and Taylor Munk, UCSB Athletics Communications
UC Santa Barbara senior, captain and native Australian Matt Gronow always dreamed of attending college in America. Following in the footsteps of both his brother, Chris and sister, Ali in attending a university in America, Gronow has loved every thing about his experience over the past four years in Santa Barbara.
“I always wanted to come out here,” comments Gronow, “my older brother Chris was my original inspiration for coming out here.”
Chris Gronow also played water polo here at UCSB. Matt was inspired to come out to the states and experience college just as his brother had.
“I remember talking to him over e-mail at the time and he said he was having a ball,” Gronow recalled, “and after that for the next two years I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.”
As high school started to wrap-up, Matt began applying to schools in Australia. All throughout high school, Matt competed in both water polo and swimming. Auburn, Cal, UCLA and UCSB were the main schools Matt was interested in.
“In Australia,” Gronow said, “ it was unheard of to attend college in the states. Academics are the main focus and sports are not as important as they are here. My main reason in coming out was for water polo and swimming. But thankfully, at UCSB I could do both college sports and get a good education.”
During one of the summers, Matt visited UCSB for a couple of weeks to check out the campus. On his visit he spoke to the head coach, Wolf Wigo, and instantly knew that the school was the perfect place for him. With the combination of the lifestyle, academics and athletics, he couldn’t refuse.
As Gronow finishes up his final season at UCSB, he is ready for his next chapter. With a major in global studies and successful water polo career already, Matt will return to Australia to pursue his dream of competing in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Matt has already won a spot on the Victorian Tigers, a professional league in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. He hopes to continue competing not only for himself, but also for his family, which has been his biggest support unit throughout his career. With the recent passing of his father Ron, Gronow is dedicated to fulfilling his dream to honor his father through continuing to pursue his love for water polo.
“I really want to make him proud,” Gronow explained. “My dad was easily my biggest fan and he supported me with everything.”
Matt also mentions his teammates who have been a brotherhood for him. The love and support he has received from not only the athletes but their families as well, has given him the comfort of a home away from home.
“Every year, my experience at Santa Barbara has gotten better and better,” he said. “I have made hundreds of friends. The team is a family to me. The Gaucho community is a family to me. They have seen me laugh, they have seen me cry, and they have seen me yell. UCSB water polo has been a huge part of my life and will continue to be a huge part of my life.”
After the Olympics Matt has a dream of eventually making his way to China. He hopes to teach English and immerse himself in the culture as well as become fluent in Mandarin, the language he has been studying while at UCSB. Eventually, Matt hopes to return to California and settle down somewhere.
After redshirting his freshman year, Gronow has played in every single game for the Gauchos in 2010 scoring 18 goals and assisting on 26 others. He’s been among the team’s leading scorers ever since and paces the way through 25 matches this season with 56. In his career so far, he has tallied 169 goals and 130 assists.
Matt has accumulated numerous awards in his four seasons as a Gaucho. He is a four-time Academic All-MPSF honoree, a 2011 Honorable Mention All-MPSF selection, a 2011 ACWPC All-Academic choice, the 2013 Golden Eagle Award winner and in 2010, he was the Roger Tobin Memorial Scholarship winner for UCSB water polo.
Gronow has had an impressive four years and it is all because he took a chance and attended UCSB.