After a bevy of tough matchups and a long season, the Grinnell women’s water polo team, the Black Sheep, took fifth in the Heartland Conference Tournament Sunday.
The team began the tournament with a 12-9 loss to Lindenwood University, the team that eventually finished in second place.
“Lindenwood recruits players from around the world,” said Co-Captain Mari Guttman ’09. “It is a very intense level of polo, and that we hold our own against them makes me very proud.”
After playing Lindenwood, the team only had a couple of hours before hopping into the pool against eventual champion Carleton College, who defeated the Black Sheep 10-4.
Despite the losses, team members said that they went out and performed to the best of their abilities.
“I feel like this weekend just summed up [our season] really well,” said Leah Krandel ’09. “When we won our third game, there wasn’t much difference between the games we lost and the games we won, after each game people had positive things to say and we were proud of how we performed. I think that speaks to how amazing this team is.”
With the season coming to an end, the Black Sheep are about to become a very young team, as five players will graduate this year, leaving only a couple of juniors. Of the many first-years who joined this season, experience ranged from never playing before to six years on a club team. Despite the squad’s youth, team Co-Captain Josie Seff ’09 sees plenty of promise for the future.
“I think that the freshman have a ton of potential,” Seff said. “This season was really good for them.”
Many players have noticed a considerable gain of experience through the season, especially those who never played before joining the team.
“It was definitely a challenge; you don’t exactly know what to do,” said first-time goalie Hannah Lytle ’11. “But it becomes a blast once you know what is going on.”
Unlike many other water polo teams, the Black Sheep do not have an official coach, instead either utilizing volunteer coaches from the men’s team, the Wild Turkeys, or coaching each other.
“We are a self-coached team and we are going against teams in Conference that have full-time coaches,” said Alex Peitz ’10. “And we are starting the season with nearly half our team never having played before.”
With a mix of players with various levels of experience, the team is looking forward to what the future may bring.
“At the end of the season, I felt we’d really come together as a team,” said Megan Januska ’12. “And it happened a lot faster here than it ever did in [high school]. It makes me really excited for the next three seasons.”