As the women’s water polo season opened up last week in Michigan it proved to be an opportunity for the inexperienced members of the team to get some playing time and step up to the challenge of the collegiate play. The inexperience of the team, though, proved not to be an issue as the No. 3 Bruins went 3-0 at the Michigan Invitational, scoring 29 goals over three games.
“We do have a young team,” coach Brandon Brooks said. “But this weekend showed that we can put girls in with less experience whether they be a new freshmen or a sophomore or junior with less playing time and expect them to still play well and have them scoring goals.”
Freshman attacker Emily Donohoe was one of those newcomers who saw action last weekend and stepped up to the challenge.
“I felt my first collegiate game went very well,” Donohoe said. “I played in the first game and scored two goals and got significant time during the second game.”
The less experienced members of the team will need to continue this level of play as the Bruins continue the season with this winning momentum.
“We are all reaching a new level of competitiveness and (the freshmen) want a part of it as much as the sophomores, juniors and seniors do,” sophomore utility Becca Dorst said.
The older girls on the team have been a big part of the team’s overall maturity.
“The older girls on the team have done a great job of being leaders to the new girls, but all of them working together has helped them grow as athletes,” Brooks said.
Even though the team lost key players and has less experience than previous years, the girls are beginning to fill the roles of those who have graduated.
“Our team this year has about three returning players who played significant minutes last year. Every team needs a leader, needs heart and a supporter,” Dorst said.
“We might be a young team, but we trust each other to fill these positions. The girls with experience give us newcomers somewhere to ask questions, but the newcomers bring an energy and excitement back to practice.”
Eyes on the prize
As the first competition of the season, the Michigan Invitational gave UCLA a taste of what its season will be like and focused the team on its goal: winning a championship. As the team continues to train throughout this season, they will do so in a manner that will push them to their limits in order to reach the prize.
“Our team is learning a new way to reach our goal,” Dorst said. “We are coming to love and respect the process: the hours of swimming every week, the heavier lifting and the overall exhaustion.”
These first few matches were the light to the fire that has boosted the team’s confidence and serves as motivation to continue practicing hard and playing well.