The women's water polo team won its first division championship last Saturday, qualifying it as the No. 14 seed for nationals. After beating Bates 14-7 in the semifinals earlier in the day, Bowdoin scored the final goal in overtime to win 7-6 over top-ranked Wellesley.
"Previously our best finish was third place two years ago," said captain Sarah Hirschfeld '13.
According to Hirschfeld, "Bowdoin scored in the first extra quarter to be up 6-5, and then Wellesley scored on a man-up to tie it back up in the second 3-minute extra quarter. With nine seconds left, Bowdoin took a timeout and set up on offense. After getting fouled outside of the 5-meter box, [first year] Patty Boyer took the shot and as the ball was in the air the buzzer went off and then the ball sailed right over the goalie's head to give Bowdoin the win, 7-6."
A winning women's water polo team is a relatively new phenomenon for Bowdoin, said captain Talhia Nunez '12.
"My freshman year, the women's team was a joke...I don't remember playing a game," said Nunez. As a sophomore, she took on a leadership position and the club team began competing in tournaments.
This year, the only two games the Polar Bears lost occured during their first weekend of play, against Wellesley and MIT. Bates rounds out the four-team North Atlantic division.
"Wesleyan was supposed to be in our league but their team dissolved before the start of the season," Hirschfeld said. Middlebury has also formerly competed in the North Atlantic division.
Women's water polo is a spring sport. "For non-swimmers, we started practicing the week after winter break," Nunez said. However, many water polo members are also varsity swimmers and could not attend water polo practice until the swim season had wrapped up. This year, that meant that the water polo team only had one week of practice with all 12 players before its first game.
Men's water polo is a fall sport, though the team is technically co-ed. This year Patty Boyer '15 joined Nunez as the second female player in the fall.
As the team has no official coach, it has had to resort to informal means of training. The men's water polo team often helped the women practice.
"We do drills at the start of our practice, then they would come and scrimmage with us," Hirschfeld said. "They were oftentimes our coaches."
Hirschfeld and Nunez also receive coaching assistance from Jim Boyle, a Brunswick resident who played water polo in college. When his children began taking swim lessons at Greason pool, Boyle noticed the team practicing and volunteered to help out.
"He's come and gotten in the water with us and helped us a lot. I just let him know when we're having practices and hand it over to him when he comes," Nunez said. "He was on the sidelines at every game."
"It's nice having him around so we can just be players," she added, referencing the fact that she and Hirschfeld sometimes serve as default coaches as well as captains.
All the team's games were held at Bowdoin this year, because "our facilities are the best," Hirschfeld said. "We just offered every time...and it was very convenient for us."
"Besides the advantage of playing home, our pool is a lot bigger, so we're used to swimming in it," Nunez said.
Water polo is new to many students on the team, though some, including Hirschfeld, Nunez and Boyer, played in high school.
"We have experienced players, but I can't pinpoint one person, which is what I really like about our team compared to other teams," Nunez said. "Bates has one good player, sometimes two if she comes to the game."
Wellesley has a similar team dynamic with a star player and "everyone else is kind of filling in space," said Nunez.