The Macalester Women’s Water Polo team played six overtime periods in a loss to rival Carthage College last Sunday at the Riley Pool. The 49 minutes and 22 seconds of play, which included four sudden-death periods, was good enough to break the record for longest game in the history of NCAA division championships. The dramatic finish to the CWPA championship tournament, the first home tournament for the Scots in three years, followed a definitive victory of Utica College on Friday, an upset of Grove City, and a defeat at the hands of Connecticut College.
“We knew going in [that] it was a special game for us,” co-captain Sarah Shoemaker said of the match against Carthage that was to determine third place in the tournament. “The last time we hosted a tournament [three years ago], they were seeded first and we were seeded eighth. We won and it was a huge upset,” added Shoemaker, noting that playing Carthage always feels “personal.”
Carthage got out to an early 3-0 lead in the first half, but by the end of regulation the Scots had evened it up at 6-6. Then came the six overtime periods, which (of course) concluded with four consecutive, dire sudden-death periods. “I think I realized how special that game was during the time outs, and it became clearer each time we were able to come together as a team,” said co-captain Chloe Kaulas ’14. Added co-captain Rachel-Harrington-Abrams ’14, “It was a really special way to end the season, to feel like we were out there fighting as a unit.”
Shoemaker noted that the Scots wouldn’t have been able to handle such an endurance test as the six overtimes if it did not come at the end of the season when their conditioning is at its peak level. “It’s a contact sport so you’re wrestling the other players for position and sprinting down the pool,” Shoemaker said. She described her memory of overtime as “a blur.”
Carthage’s squad of 27 polo players posed a conundrum for the Scots, as every time Carthage scored or came close, the bench would explode with cheering and applause. However, the impressive Leonard Center crowd and the comparatively small Macalester bench went wild during every big moment.
This fan enthusiasm came to a head following the post-game handshake. “Usually if we win, we turn to the fans and start the “Macalester is Wonderful” cheer. This time they yelled down to us to wait a minute and started the cheer for us. It was one of the most special moments of my career as an athlete,” Shoemaker said. The appreciation was mutual, as fan Maggie Joyce ’15 called it “the most exciting sports event I’ve ever been to.” She added, “It went into quadruple sudden-death; you can’t get that in any other sport.”
“Having the fans and the energy of the pool was one of the greatest parts. We haven’t played a real game for our own fans in our own pool since my freshman year. Having such amazing support from our Aquatics ‘family’ and all of our friends out of the pool made this weekend really special,” Harrington-Abrams said.
Finishing the season in such dramatic fashion feeds enthusiasm for next year’s season. The team will return a number of first-years who up until this fall had never played water polo, and grew “exponentially,” according to Shoemaker, over the course of the season. All three co-captains agree that the record-breaking game, despite its outcome, was a proud moment for the program.