On Nov. 9, the women’s water polo team left behind the cool, crisp air of New York to enjoy a warm, sunny weekend in southern California as they competed in the annual 2018 USA Water Polo Collegiate Cup tournament.
Freshmen Gabrielle Gervasi and Sawyer Alter both described playing in the “fast-paced” environment of their first Collegiate Cup as “unforgettable” and different from any other tournaments or games they played in high school.
“It was super exciting but nerve wracking, especially because we were playing University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), who is one of the top 5 teams in the nation. We have been working really hard this season to be able to compete at the Collegiate Cup, so to have my first collegiate tournament be against top teams, while also being competitive against them, was an amazing experience,” said Gervasi.
Although playing in the tournament was stressful for Alter because she did not know what to expect from her first collegiate game, she found comfort in her teammates. “It felt like a big family trying to attain one common goal of winning. I really liked that everyone made me feel included and everyone had their own role to play,” said Alter.
The two-day tournament took place on Nov. 10-11 at the William Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine, Calif. The annual event brings together the top collegiate women’s water polo teams to complete with the USA Water Polo Women’s Senior National Team. This year, Marist was one of three East Coast teams, aside from the University of Michigan and Indiana University, who were invited to play in the tournament.
When asked about the team’s dynamic while preparing for a game, Caoimhe Whitebloom, a senior on the team, described their preparation for a game as “cohesive chaos.” In the beginning, each team member branches off to mentally prepare themselves individually by doing things such as listening to music or engaging in pre-game rituals. Afterwards, the team eventually comes together to finish off stretching exercises and doing jumps to “hype” themselves up. “The energy tends to get pretty intense and people bounce off each other as we get more excited,” said Whitebloom. “We try to be as level-headed as we can and concentrate on what we are about to do beforehand.”
On the first day, Marist fell to one of the top five seeds, UCLA, 12-3, in its first game of the tournament. That weekend, the team also faced Pomona Pitzer, San Jose State, and the University of Hawaii. In their final game, the team competed for a second time against Pomona Pitzer for 13th place, but were outlasted 12-10. Nevertheless, after catching a red-eye flight from Irvine on Sunday night, the team returned to campus Monday morning feeling thankful for the opportunity to participate in the tournament and excited about the prospects of the upcoming season.
“The tournament was a good kickoff to the season that starts in January because we get to see what we need to work on both individually and as a team,” said junior Anais Mathes.
Whitebloom shared a similar sentiment about the Collegiate Cup, stating that in addition to preparing them for the upcoming season, it offers the team a significant advantage. “Most other schools don’t play a game outside of practice until second semester so [the tournament] allows us to see how well (or not) we work together,” said Whitebloom. “We can see what we need to fix and what works.”
According to Mathes, since the team arrived back on campus, they have resumed their daily practice schedule, starting most days at 6:45 a.m. doing strength training and ending around 9 a.m. practicing specific plays and skill swimming in the pool. After spending nearly every day together, it comes as no surprise how close the team feels with one another.
“I like how everything is very team-orientated and it makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger than myself,” said Alter. “I want to do well for my team and my coach.”
“What I love about being apart of the Marist Water Polo team is our team dynamic. The team is so supportive in the water and on the bench which keeps the team momentum and energy really high,” said Gervasi.