The Occidental women’s water polo team played against a trio of top-ranked NCAA Division I teams this past weekend at the UC Davis Aggie Shootout. The women played UC Davis on Saturday (19-4) and Cal State Bakersfield and San Jose State on Sunday (14-3, 20-3).
When asked about the tournament, goalkeeper Anna De Groot (senior) and attacker Zulema Iboa-Garcia (senior) said they were glad they had made the trip, though they mentioned the difficulty in competing against Division I schools.
Iboa-Garcia noted the heightened competitive atmosphere and large numbers of fans. Early in the season, this enhanced atmosphere allows the team to get used to a more serious attitude in preparation for SCIAC opponents.
“Until you’re in a game scenario, you don’t get it,” Iboa-Garcia said.
Although a competitive mindset is beneficial for future competition, De Groot and Iboa-Garcia both said that it can be difficult for the team to cultivate a positive team attitude when playing against Division I schools. Iboa-Garcia also said that having three head coaches in the last four years has been difficult for the players to manage.
De Groot mentioned that having a small roster of 11 forces the Tigers to put in double the work of their opponents. UC Davis and San Jose State both have team rosters of 25, while Bakersfield has a roster of 21. When treading water, defending or attacking opponents and keeping track of the play at hand, the difference between four and eight minutes can be exhausting.
Roster size does not just affect games, though. It takes seven players to make a team, so a scrimmage in practice requires some ingenuity on the part of interim head coach Jack Stabenfeldt and assistant coach Nanea Fujiyama.
“Sometimes the guys get in, sometimes [coach] Nanea [Fujiyama] gets in,” Iboa-Garcia said.
Beyond the smaller roster size is the contrasting play styles in men’s and women’s water polo.
“The biggest difference is the type of physicality in the water,” Iboa-Garcia said. “[Men] rely on grabbing wrists and elbows while women tend to rely on grabbing suits to gain advantage”
While a small roster limited the Tigers in their games in Davis, neither De Groot nor Iboa-Garcia regretted their trip north.
De Groot said, however, that the team did some things well and was able to improve throughout the tournament. Iboa-Garcia said many members of the team felt demoralized going into the tournament. The two seniors both agreed, however, that the team managed to get better both in its attitude and in its play execution throughout the tournament.
This past weekend the Tigers were broken down, tired and outnumbered, but they were also able to improve many facets of their game. Competing against teams like Cal State Bakersfield and St. Francis University has prepared the team for the fast-paced style of Division I opponents.
De Groot mentioned that playing a team with upwards of twenty players gave the Tigers perspective in just how much work they do in a single game. Though short-handed, the team looks to apply the lessons learned from a tough weekend going into SCIAC play. The Tigers will take on Cal Tech at Haldeman Pool March 3 in Claremont .