By Christina Lee and Jennifer Cain
City on a Hill Press Reporters

“Whose house? Our house! Whose house? Our house!”

This was the chant of the UC Santa Cruz’s women’s water polo team that echoed across the home swimming pool last Saturday morning, as the team got pumped up for the first game of Slugfest, its biggest annual tournament.

“It went OK,” assistant coach Alan Cima said. “We didn’t shoot well, but we played good defense.”

The Slugs faced off against Indiana University, a Division I team ranked No. 19 in the nation, in their first round of play. With only a few minutes left in the match, Jaizy Hansen of UCSC stole the ball and scored against the opponent’s goalkeeper. Although the Slugs ultimately lost, that play helped dig the Slugs out of a hole, turning what could have been a complete loss into a close match with a final score of 4-5.

“It was fun,” said Hanna Eimstad, a freshman on the Indiana team. “They made a comeback. We were confident in the beginning but in the end they shook us up.”

The UCSC women’s water polo team members said there is a lot of room for improvement; however, they are having trouble living up to their potential because of the unavailability of the pool.

“It is disappointing — we have all these great players, and the school doesn’t give a shit,” said senior Heather Stewart, as she broke into tears.

Next year, the men’s and women’s water polo teams will be cut due to the lack of university funding. According to Stewart, the athletic budget for all 14 of the UCSC-sponsored sports teams combined is $700,000 — a mere fraction of DI athletic funding.

“It is really disappointing to look at my teammates and know they might not play water polo next year,” Stewart said. “They are killing a great program by eliminating this team. I will do anything to keep that from happening.”

Not only is the team being cut, but this year, the unavailability of the pool has impacted their performance. Last year they practiced 14 hours a week, but this year they are only allotted seven hours.

“We’re not in the same swimming shape, we don’t have the same legs, we don’t have the same shooting strength, and it shows,” said Nila Ward, a junior transfer from UC Davis. “It shows that we haven’t played together enough hours because we haven’t had enough pool time.”

This struggle was apparent even to some of the fans that were watching the match that day.

“They have the talent to take any of these teams, but sometimes it just doesn’t show in the water,” said junior Ben Berridge, a former water polo player and supporter of the team.

Despite the opposition and going 1-3 overall at Slugfest, the Slugs are trying to stay hopeful and finish the season strong.

“We don’t have enough pool time to develop as a team and work cohesively,” Stewart said. “Despite the fact we don’t have enough time in the pool, we are playing really well. We are going to have one of the best seasons UCSC has ever had.”

<a href="">Discuss and share this story on SlugLife.</a>