Club water polo squad looks to repeat as a national contender in the spring
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 18:09
Water polo received a lot of press during the 2012 Olympics, when NBC’s underwater camera showed an American player tugging at her opponent’s bathing suit during an intense play. This “wardrobe malfunction” caused a lot of sensation online, but the members of Wellesley’s club water polo team were unfazed by the coverage.
In fact, many of them were enthused by the wave of publicity given to their sport, which only receives substantial media attention every four years. “The attention that shows the sport as violent and physical, and the fact that people are starting to realize how tough of a sport it is is actually good,” Coach Michael Byrd said. “It was validation for people to realize that the sport is so tough, especially in the Northeast where people don’t really play water polo.”
Water polo is indeed a physically demanding sport; Byrd explains that it is a mix of swimming, soccer, hockey and basketball. Six players and one goalie play the field at one time, and a game is broken down into four quarters of eight minutes each.
The players are treading water for the entire time, and the underwater violence that exists in professional action does exist to some extent at the college level. “When people go for goalies, they go in for the kill,” goalie Genia Nizkorodov ’13 said.
Fall is the team’s offseason, so the players are currently practicing several times a week with their coach, and plan to scrimmage against Boston University later this semester. The team in the spring will likely be made up of five returning players and five new players. Some had extensive water polo experience prior to coming to Wellesley. Others just picked up the sport when they got to college.
This is why it is so impressive that Wellesley’s squad is able to hang with some of the top teams in the countries, including many schools with much larger student bodies. Last year, Wellesley’s water polo club team made it to the national tournament and lost to Michigan’s club team by only a few goals. Michigan was the third-ranked team in the country, and left its starting players in for the entire game.
Wellesley is very competitive in its league of regional schools. The team takes on schools like Bowdoin, Bates, MIT, Boston University, Boston College, Dartmouth, Yale and Williams in all-women’s club action during the regular season. Often the team will play three or four tournaments a year.
The team cross-trains by playing basketball and tennis, but the players maintain that the best way to get in shape for water polo is by actually playing water polo. “Water polo is really a full body workout,” Elena Quijano ’13 said.
Quijano lives in California, where water polo is a popular sport. She’s a competitive surfer who started playing water polo during her senior year of high school. Nizkorodov also picked up the sport in California. This is her ninth year playing water polo. Both Quijano and Nizkorodov are strong enough to carry the team back to Nationals this spring.
The water polo club team practices from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and is looking to add to its roster. But with two strong seniors returning from last year’s national-caliber team, Wellesley should be able to advance in national competition once again.