Last weekend, the women’s club water polo team defeated its rival Bates College in a home tournament at Greason Pool, in addition to earning a win against Wellesley College. While Bowdoin lost to Yale University and Middlebury College, the victories are the club’s first in over two years. They were especially meaningful for the team as it works towards recruiting more members and looks forward to next year’s season.
The team has many members who have little to no prior water polo experience. It is student run, but Coach James Doyle, affectionately called Coach Jim, assists with his expertise.
Doyle has been playing water polo since he was in elementary school, played for Colgate University and has been involved with the program at the College for about 20 years. He says the joy he finds in the water polo community keeps him going.
“The students are just a pleasure to be around. I’m really impressed that they seem to get nicer every year,” he said. “I just enjoy interacting with the students and seeing the joy they have in playing, and the energy we all share in enjoying something together.”
Doyle also highlighted the flexibility and positivity of the team.
“It’s competitive, but it’s not all encompassing,” he said. “People participate in many other things, so people come willingly as a kind of an escape, just to go into the pool and enjoy themselves.”
Captain Haley McGill ’25 never considered playing water polo until her former proctor convinced her to join. Once she started going to the practices, she noted the unique supportive energy the team had.
“Everyone’s very supportive and energetic, and it’s really fun,” she said.
This past weekend, there was no goalkeeper able to play, so McGill stood in. This was her first tournament playing–and winning–as a goalie.
“It was definitely different, but I enjoyed it nonetheless,” she said. “Honestly I think I may keep practicing being a goalie.”
The team’s competitiveness in tandem with their optimistic attitude makes for an enthusiastic environment, even when the regular season is over.
“We’re back in the pool tomorrow even though we’re done with tournaments and competition,” Doyle said. “We still practice two or three times a week just to get in the pool, and that kind of speaks to the enjoyment that the people have.”
In season, the team practices four or five times a week and the schedules are flexible depending on what various team members’ schedules allow for. The spring is the women’s season, but during the fall season, the team is coed.
Doyle said that the past few years had been hard on the club, which made winning against Bates and Wellesley and going 2–2 on the weekend even more rewarding. Covid-19 greatly reduced the team’s roster. It has been a journey to build up their numbers again.
“We are definitely challenged in terms of a lack of experience and a lack of numbers on our team. We were hit hard by the pandemic,” Doyle said. “Fortunately, we have three sophomore captains that have been energetic and are recruiting people as much as they can. Really, everyone’s worked really hard.”
The recruiting seems to be paying off. Lilly Browder ’24 joined the team this year, despite not playing since high school. In her first collegiate tournament, Browder was the top scorer.
“I hadn’t actually played in any [collegiate] games until last weekend,” Browder said. “It’s pretty new, in terms of getting a refresher after Covid.”
Browder attributed the team’s success over the weekend to fast breaks from Nina Fearon ’26 and Lierin Peterson ’26.
“We have some really good swimmers on the team, particularly Nina and Lierin, so I think they did really well in moving the ball forward,” Browder said.
Many players also mentioned that Doyle is the best coach they could ask for.
“He’s great and super excited all the time. He even gets in the pool and practices with us,” Browder said.
Overall, the team is proud that its lack of numbers has not inhibited its passion. Doyle believes the camaraderie on the team is outstanding.
“It’s fun seeing people improve their skills and the confidence that results from that,” he said. “In my 20 years here, it’s been almost 100 percent of the time a positive experience for most everyone that participates.”