The women’s water polo team is gearing up for a championship tournament at MIT on April 13 and 14 after winning both of its home games last Sunday against Coast Guard Academy and Bates.
To prepare for the season, captain Raquel Santizo ’19 said the women’s team scrimmages against men from the fall coed team. Both teams are club sports. The scrimmages, Santizo said, along with the coed season, helped boost her confidence going into this spring.
“I went to an all-girls high school and never really imagined myself playing a contact sport with men,” Santizo said. “But you learn how to play smarter. I’ve had games where I’ve had to defend against a 6’1 guy who’s maybe 250 pounds. It’s very different from when I’m defending someone my size or a little smaller. Also, in the coed season, goalies tend to have the wingspan of the entire goal, so I need to learn how to shoot differently.”
As the sixth seed in the MIT tournament, Santizo hopes Bowdoin’s team can beat Wellesley, its first round matchup.
“Just like any team sport, it takes a bit for us to understand how to work well together, to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses—I think we’ve finally gotten to that point especially after Sunday,” Santizo said. “Winning is fun and great, but the score doesn’t necessarily reflect how well you play. If I know that we’ve improved as a team and we’re doing better than we were at the beginning of the season, then I’m happy.”
As quasi-coaches and players, Santizo and fellow captain Molly Foley ’19 design and run practices, coach during games and organize transportation, food and pool setup. In addition to these responsibilities, they also recruit high school and college students.
“The challenge of recruiting is real because you need to have people who feel comfortable in the water and feel comfortable in their swimming abilities,” Santizo said. “Many people have access to doing a sport on the land, but having swimming as a prerequisite is an added barrier.”
In addition, Santizo commented on the challenge aquatic sports teams face to recruit athletes from diverse backgrounds, since zoning, financial barriers and state-sanctioned segregation of the 1950s contribute to limited access to public pools.
“I’m always trying to make it a very inclusive and open community, even if you’ve never played before,” Santizo said. “We get someone who used to swim or used to lifeguard, or maybe they never swam—they’re a high school athlete looking for something that’s not at the varsity level.”
Foley said the team tries to make the sport as accessible as possible by providing suits, goggles and other equipment.
Looking ahead to their tournament at MIT, Foley said it’s not necessarily about winning but having a good weekend away.
“We have a lot of [players] on our team who learned [this semester] how to shoot and pass, how to tread water, how to swim freestyle,” Foley said. “It’s been fun to get to see the players learn to love [the sport].”