The women’s water polo team overcame player injuries to place second at the New England Championship Tournament last weekend.
The Bulldogs competed at Wesleyan University April 12 and 13 as the No. 1 seed in the New England region. With a bid to nationals on the line, the team lost to Dartmouth in the tournament finals. But the team — unsure how injuries would affect its play — came away proud of its semifinal win against long-time rival MIT, 11-6.
“Our performance against MIT on Saturday was the strongest, most inspired I’ve seen in my four years on the team, which is even more amazing considering the team’s injuries,” said Emily Bailard ’03, one of the team’s injured seniors.
The Bulldogs entered the tournament with an undefeated league record (8-0) and ranked No. 6 among collegiate clubs in the nation, but Bailard and Joanna Busquets ’03 were sidelined with injuries.
Bailard severely tore a muscle in her right arm during a training trip in California over spring break and was unable to play. Busquets, one of the team’s top offensive scorers, suffered an ankle injury before the tournament.
“Going into championships as the number one seed during my senior year and then fracturing my ankle two days before the tournament was extremely frustrating, but the team was very supportive and understanding,” Busquets said.
Bailard credited younger players with the team’s success at the tournament.
“It was cool to see the younger players step up,” she said. “They all proved they were talented players who were a threat, even against experienced teams.”
The team is especially proud of the second place finish because of the relative strength of the Massachusetts, MIT and Dartmouth teams this year, she said.
The Bulldogs beat Wellesley on Saturday in the first round 12-5. Galen Main ’06 had five goals and Jill McSorley ’03 chipped in four scores of her own. Acacia Clark ’04 registered four steals and Alexis Slater ’03 came away with three take-aways.
In recent years, Yale has played close matches at the New England Championships with top-ranked MIT. In 2002, Yale lost to MIT 10-9 in the second round, and in 2001 Yale won the tournament against MIT 11-10. This year, Yale surpassed MIT in the semifinals by a surprising five-goal margin, 11-6.
MIT was not prepared for Yale, coach Jennifer Halverson said.
“We looked more confident than we ever have and were fired up the entire game,” she said. “While we offensively only went man-up four times, we were able to take advantage of what was being created in the front court, converting many of our possessions into goals. Every person played and carried a big presence that MIT could not top.”
Main had three goals and Acacia Clark ’04 tallied four, while Bonnie Martin made five saves.
Co-captain Giovanna Masci ’04 said the team did not get off to its usual start in the match against Dartmouth.
“Usually we score fairly quickly, and come out excited after the first score. We usually get drive and power from our first goal,” she said. “This time, Dartmouth got the first goal and our first came much later.”
Main and Slater each scored one goal. Martin had six saves.
“Dartmouth won this game by seven goals, but they definitely never thought it was over until it was over. They knew that Yale was talented enough to change the scoreboard, but unfortunately, we were not able to do it in this game,” Halverson said.
“From the sidelines, you’d think it was an evenly matched game with about the same number of shots. But our shots just weren’t going in,” Bailard said.
Yale finished the season 10-1 league play. Dartmouth also finished with a 10-1 record, having lost to Yale earlier this season.
“It was a stellar season. I’m very hopeful about next season,” Masci said.