It was a season of disappointment for the women’s water polo team, but the athletes managed to keep their heads above water despite finishing last in the Pacific Coast Conference with a 0-9 conference record and an overall mark of 1-23.
Coach Jennifer Harper said it was tough not having a pool on campus and becoming a vagabond squad. Southwestern’s pool was demolished in June due to the construction of the new math, science and engineering building. A new aquatic complex is scheduled to open in 2017.
“It was pretty difficult to relocate every day,” said Harper.
Team captain Karina Reynoso said the facilities issue impacted recruiting.
“At first there were a lot of girls that didn’t want to join because it was off campus and inconvenient, but it worked out a lot better than we thought it would,” she said.
The Lady Jags carpooled to practice at Las Palmas Pool in National City.
Elizabeth Rozow was a daily chauffeur.
“It was hard in the beginning of the season,” she said.
The Lady Jags could not find their rhythm all season. Their first and only victory came against East Los Angeles College, 15-9.
Even so, Reynoso said there were inspiring moments, like when Maria Tello decided to step up for her team and play goalie. Reynoso said she was proud of Tello.
“She worked as hard as she could and really impressed all of us,” she said.
Inexperience was another challenge for the young team.
Rozow, an experienced swimmer but first-year water polo player, said mastery came slowly.
“We had to learn the sport this off-season and it took time,” she said.
Reynoso said the patience of Harper and assistant coach Andrea Alexander was appreciated by the team.
“They are the exact coaches that any athlete would ask for,” she said. “They supported us through everything.”
Harper said the team has a word in Portuguese they learned from the Olympics that fits their current situation – gambiarra.
Harper said her goals were to motivate her athletes in the pool and provide life skills.
Most of the team plans to return next year and will train at a new aquatics center with two Olympic-sized pools.
“It will mean so much!” Rozow said. “It will be a lot easier for the girls to all be there and work on our skills.”
Harper said she is enthusiastic about the construction project.
“It’s the pool I’ve always dreamed of,” she said.