The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps women’s water polo team (2-9, 2-8 SCIAC) played ferociously Mar. 4 and 5 against Whittier College (12-3, 2-0 SCIAC), and Division-I teams University of California, San Diego (14-6, 1-0 Conf.), University of California, Santa Barbara (11-8, 0-0 SCIAC), and Concordia University (0-10, 0-1 Conf.). The Athenas were able to pull out the win against Concordia 8-4.
“I think it’s important to remember what team we are playing…top-15-ranked teams who have their eyes set on a NCAA championship. We wanted to practice our game plan against teams that were going to give us a lot of trouble with it,” said Ellen Perfect CM ’17, left attacker, who returned to the pool this weekend for the first time since sustaining a concussion earlier in the season. “This is how we’re going to gain mental and physical toughness going into SCIAC.”
Mental and physical toughness will really help this young Athena team grow: The squad is graduating just two players over the next two years, and currently consists of eight sophomores and six freshmen.
“I didn’t expect to get so much playing time since we’ve had a few unexpected injuries … with very few upper classmen driving the team it’s been a great opportunity and different experience being able to really play and contribute,” says Kaitlyn Eng HM ’19. “Playing D-I schools is tough but we did run our plays and did the best we could.”
“Normally the problem that we have with D-I teams is depth…we just don’t have that many players as a D-III team, especially without subs since three of our starters have been injured,” Perfect continued. “We hold them for the first quarter or half, and then when our starters get tired and don’t have the replacements to keep going that’s when they run away with it.”
Going into the weekend, CMS knew its most mentally challenging opponent was Whittier, a huge SCIAC rival. “They’re pretty strong so we really wanted to show we could compete with them at the same level,” says Eng. Whittier had a 8-1 lead on the Athenas by halftime, but CMS closed that gap significantly with a strong offensive second half. Roxy Kiessling CM '19 led the Athenas with five goals in the game, four of which came in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to win the game, but it was a huge confidence boost for CMS: The team realized they could come back from a deficit and cause teams real trouble.
Although the women’s polo team is young, Perfect emphasized the fact that so many younger players are willing to step up for the team and have gained the confidence to play the way they have in an environment where they might have been intimidated to do otherwise.
“I’m proud of every single player on our team; everyone’s contributed to the team’s successes and chemistry this season,”she said.
A few standout Athena players so far this season have been Jess Gaffney CM ’18 who performs well in high pressure situations, Claire Baxter CM ’18, contributing a strong presence, and Helen Thomason SC ’18, who scored her first goal of the season against the University of Hawaii (13-2). “Everyone on our team is very versatile and can play any position since our offense is a moving offense…everyone has their part to play and it helps get things accomplished.”
The Athenas will next face George Washington University (3-6 0-0 Conf.) Mar. 11. Having had the opportunity to practice both set plays and their defense against such strong D-I teams out of conference, the Athenas are optimistic about the rest of the season, and determined to work toward their goal of setting their team up to take the SCIAC playoffs this year.