By Artoor Minas
Last weekend, colleges from around the nation came to Santa Cruz to compete in the Woman’s Water Polo Division III National Championship Tournament. UC Santa Cruz finished their season, placing fifth overall out of the eight teams vying for superiority.
The Slugs came into the tournament as a confident group, despite having an overall record of 8-22 this season. The high energy was due to the team’s closeness and great fan support throughout the season.
But regardless of their positive attitude, the Slugs were overmatched against Redlands in the first game of the competition, losing by a score of 11-2.
“Something went wrong,” sophomore attacker Annie Keating said. “It was something intangible. It’s hard to figure out what it was, but we can’t be upset with what went wrong; we should focus on the good things that happened.”
The match against Redlands showed the Slugs that they had to step up in the next four games that they would be playing over the weekend.
On Friday afternoon, the team faced Cal State East Bay in what turned out to be a close game. The Slugs fell 8-6, despite three goals from sophomore Heather Stewart.
The loss displayed a problem that has plagued the team all season: their play in the second half.
“It’s disappointing to be up at the half and not winning in the second half,” Stewart said. “I would like to see us play with the same intensity in the second half as in the first.”
Keating tried to offer an explanation for why the team has had such strong starts but weak finishes this year.
“We’re an extremely mental team,” Keating said. “We feed off each other. When one person doesn’t play well, it spreads to the rest of us.”
The highlight of the tournament came at the end, when the Slugs finished their season strong with a win over Grove City, 8-5.
“It was really good for us to end on a win,” Stewart said. “There is much potential for us next season.”
Stewart described the season as a year of learning and growing, and goalkeeper Jen Parra echoed those words.
“It was a successful season,” Parra said. “We learned a lot playing together. Last year, we barely had a counter-attack. Now we do, and we’re coming together. We’ll definitely have a better team next year.”
Although the Slugs fell short of a national championship, the team expects nothing less from an improved squad next year since the team is only losing two of this year’s starters.
“This season was overall a success,” Keating said. “We improved each game and we’ve tapped into part of the potential [fundamentals] we were going for this year. We could’ve done better, but were proud about where we are.”
The team believes that a large portion of their success next year will result from their team chemistry.
“Camaraderie,” assistant coach Danielle Mulford said. “This team is very close. They’re all good friends. I have high expectations for us as a group.”