Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Women’s water polo prepares to dive into championship play

The women’s water polo team is looking to have a successful season, building on challenges from last season. On March 9, the Vikings beat the McKendree Bearcats with a score of 8-7. Juniors Ocean Akau, Charlotte Newport, Maggie Caliendo and Casey Barragan each played a key role in helping the Vikings win against the Bearcats. The victory over McKendree University boosted the confidence of the players as they are set to start conference play on March 23 against Austin College. 

“I was really pleased with the way we kept a really consistent approach and focus level throughout the game because we had some ups and downs,” Head Coach Ryan Pryor said. “We had to come back a couple of times. We entered the fourth quarter trailing six to four and won the fourth quarter four to one to get the win.”

The win over McKendree University was also important for the team as the Vikings had yet to win against the Bearcats in a game. Newport was one player who was thrilled about the win.

“That was the first time we’d ever beat them,” Newport said. “That was such a big deal for us. So honestly just at the end how hype we were, I think that was a big highlight for me.”

The Vikings are currently looking to win the CWPA conference championship which involves beating familiar opponents such as Austin College and McKendree University.

“As a team, we have been continuing to work hard at practice and work on our communication skills in the water,” First-Year Alayna Ickert said. “I’m confident my team will do well.”

Before the team enters conference play, some minor improvements need to be to improve performance and game outcome.

“I think the only thing we could get a little better at is our communication,” Ickert said. “But as the season has gone on, we have gotten better at it every game, and by the time conference comes up, I believe we will be able to fully communicate successfully as a team.”

The team also hopes to play at nationals again following the conference championship. Last year, the team took third place in the national championship after falling in the semifinals and then beating Austin College with a score of 10-3 for third place. This year, the team hopes to place higher, improving on faults from last year’s national play. 

“We’ve made some adjustments to our frontcourt defense to match up a little better stylistically to those teams,” Pryor said. “Those teams are pretty athletic and incorporate a lot of motion into their systems, so we’ve made a couple of tweaks in the way we play to be able to match up a little better against that.”

The achievements of the women’s water polo team are a great feat, especially since the team was only established in the fall of 2021. Since then, the Vikings have grown their numbers and now have veteran players who can teach the new players the ropes of the game. 

“I definitely think this year has been a lot better since a lot of us have had at least two seasons under our belt now,” Akau said. “We’ve been able to figure it out and help other people figure it out.”

The closeness of all the players on the team has allowed the Vikings to become successful in their sport. This culture has grown because of social gatherings that happen throughout the season, both in the pool and outside of it.

“I think that such a big part of having a good team is how well you mesh together,” Newport said. “Not just inside the pool but outside. Obviously, we work great inside the pool, but when we’re outside the pool we’re all pretty much best friends. That is such a huge part for us and our success: we’re just having so much fun.”

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