While most Boston University sports fans have been focused on the ice, the BU women’s club water polo team has been making a big splash as the newest member of the New England League.’
‘We switched to this league this season, so we didn’t really know what to expect or how we were going do against the other teams until our first tournament,’ senior captain Genna Martin said.
In that Feb. 14 and 15 tournament at Williams College, BU faced league opponents Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, Williams and Yale University, and the Terriers proved that they are a dominant force. They swept all four of their games. The first game against Dartmouth was the closest of their wins, 5-4. They went on to beat Middlebury, 15-8, Yale, 9-6, and Williams, 15-4.
This past weekend, the team traveled to New Haven, Conn., where it went 3-1, losing its first game, 10-9, to Dartmouth in an overtime battle. BU went on to decisively beat its other three opponents.
This success looks to be just the beginning for the team. The Terriers return to action again in April at Middlebury for the league championships, the winner of which goes to nationals at the University of California-Davis. Although BU has done well in the past while competing in the North Atlantic League (finishing second or third in each of the past three years), in its 14 years as a club team, the squad has never made it to nationals. This year, with Dartmouth as the main competition, UC-Davis seems within reach.
‘We are going to work on some different defensive plays, so we can cause more turnovers,’ first-year BU coach Konrad Szupinski said of the team’s plan to prepare for an inevitable faceoff with Dartmouth. ‘We just had a couple of mistakes here and there that in the next two weeks we are going to clean up, and we should be ready.’
But more than practice, it is the individual players and team dynamics that will help push the team to nationals. The close-knit squad, which jokes around during practice and can be seen laughing its way into the locker room, is primarily made up of younger students.
‘We have a lot of new girls on the team this year who are very good, which has had a positive impact on the team,’ Martin said. ‘The five freshmen found it a friendly and welcoming environment to acclimate to. The veteran players helped the rookies feel like a part of the team.’
‘Everyone was really nice and welcoming, not only with water polo, but with anything,’ freshman Joanna Chan said. ‘If you ever have problems, they are there to talk. It has been a great way to make a lot of friends.’
The team’s unity can be seen at practice when their smiles and good spirits make a grueling workout fun. An important component of the atmosphere displayed in the pool is that they all want to be there, practicing four times a week.
‘People who join a club team are people who want to play,’ Szupinski said. ‘They come here because they want to, not because they are made by anybody, which is very positive. This group of athletes is extremely motivated and has this great positive attitude. They are very helpful both toward me and each other, and I think that brings them closer together. They work hard, really want it, and have a lot of fun.’
Even with the good nature of the team, the athletes have serious matters to focus on, especially if they get to nationals. The team receives little funding from the university and must do much of its own fundraising. The athletes take this into their own hands and raise money by selling sweatshirts, working the concession stands during swim meets and sending out a yearly donor letter, among other activities. Currently, a bake sale is in the works.
‘I basically just show up and coach, but this is the girls’ team,’ Szupinski said. ‘They book the hotels, get the vans, schedule the pool time, and they do all the fundraising. It is really great.’
The group of highly spirited and motivated athletes works hard to create its own success and doesn’t plan on stopping until they reach nationals at UC-Davis. Although its end goal is to get to nationals, the team sees the importance of focusing on the challenge at hand, and is currently focused on improving each aspect of its game and preparing for an inevitable matchup against Dartmouth in the league championship in April.