Water polo struggles with inexperience, early losses

By Megan Walsh

Women’s water polo has experienced a season of abrupt transitions this year. A team composed mostly of swimmers, most women on the team returned to the pool quickly after a long season.

“We literally had one day off between the seasons,” Sofia Shaw ’09 said.

There’s also been a transition to a team dominated by first-years, many of whom have swam, but have never played water polo before.

While swimming is an integral part of water polo, the two sports are quite different. “The mechanics are really different. Water polo is a team sport with a ball while swimming is more individual,” Shaw said. “The transition was a little frustrating because there was so little downtime.”

There was some benefit from the shift. “It was good to enter the season knowing the team well,” Rachel Murray ’09 said.

Having a roster full of first-years and inexperienced players has made for some difficult times this season and the team got off to a slow start, losing 16 games in a row during their Spring Break trip. “We were at a disadvantage this year,” Heather Lendway ’06, the only senior on the team said. Lendway said that the season has been a learning experience for the young Scots, which has been frustrating at times. “People aren’t learning as fast as in the past but that’s because we have more people learning at the same time,” she said.

Youth has also been an advantage to some degree for Mac who has relied on first-years to contribute. “Right now the freshman are playing a huge role in coming off the bench and helping us in certain situations. When we need a little extra defense Liz Reynoso [’09] has been able to provide that, if we need extra speed Alex Cortes [’09] has provided that, if we need a spark on offense Kait Sheridan [’09] has provided that,” coach Bob Pearson said.

While Mac struggled to rack up wins early in the season, they’ve made strides in the team chemistry department. “The team dynamic is good, especially for first-years and new players,” Shaw said. Everyone is supportive, [and] the upper-classmen help coach the team which makes it easier for newcomers to learn.”

Entering the second month of their season, the team hopes their camaraderie will lead to wins. The team headed to California for a tournament in mid-March, where they left with a lot of knowledge but without a win. “We played some really sophisticated teams in California. The goal was to learn more. Since that trip, it’s been a lot easier. The newcomers have picked it up really quickly,” coach Pearson said. “As with any program it takes a while to find the chemistry. The trip to California over Spring Break really helped to bring them together as a team. “

Mac took a step in the right direction last Tuesday, beating the U of M 8-0. Early in the year, Mac lost to their Minneapolis rivals 7-8.

Women’s water polo will look to perform well at Regionals later this month in Wisconsin and hopes to make it to Nationals the first week of May. “We need to learn to play with each other more so we can intuitively know what our teammates are doing and feel more comfortable in the water,” Shaw said. While the season is not yet over, many players are looking forward to next year. “We are only going to lose one senior and have about four recruits with a lot of experience who will play,” Shaw said.