Starting their season on Sept. 24 with a tournament, the Water Polo Club is back for a second year going strong. Started by Ph.D. student and current president Melissa May last year, the Water Polo Club has attracted members with a various amount of swimming backgrounds to make up the current team.
“I’m from Arizona so I’ve been playing water polo since I was in grade school,” May said. “I think it’s really fun and I was a swimmer, so it’s kinda just a different way to still be in the water and to exercise.”
Fellow master’s student Constantin Scherelis was one of the people who helped May get the club started. He was disappointed to see that Maine didn’t have a team, as he had previously played water polo in high school.
“I was a swimmer all through high school, but halfway through high school it was a little monotonous looking at the black line and I wanted to find another sport in swimming,” Scherelis said.
Although water polo is not a very common sport, Maine has found teams to play against by joining the Collegiate Water Polo Association, which is made up of the University of Maine, Colby College, Bates, Bowdoin, the University of Vermont, St. Michael’s College and Tufts. Since the team is co-ed it falls under the men’s division, but women are allowed to play and several other schools which have co-ed teams.
The team played their first tournament the weekend of Sept. 24, the second tournament the weekend of Oct. 1 and will have a championship tournament later in the semester. Although they have come together as one team, each member has a different story of how they found the sport and their experience with it.
Third-year Joe Collins is coming back for his second year as a member of the team and was initially exposed to the sport while working over the summer.
“I first learned about the sport over the summer. I was a lifeguard and one of the people I lifeguarded with played, [he] would bring his ball and we would practice when it was slow,” Collins said. “I saw on FirstClass they were making a team and I joined.”
First-year Owen VanDerAa had experience swimming in high school and wanted to enjoy a different way to be in the water, rather than just swimming laps. Being a new player and having a background in swimming allowed him to focus on other areas of the sport.
“I would say I still don’t know all the rules, so one of my concerns with playing in tournaments is fouling,” VanDerAa said.
Since Collins has been playing for a while, he has mastered the rules more quickly than he may have otherwise. However, he was not a swimmer before joining the team; he initially struggled to get his stamina and endurance to the point where he could keep up with people who had been swimming competitively, so that’s one of the things he wants to focus on this year.
“I want to score points and improve my swimming stamina,” Collins said.
Graduate student Megan Switzer joined the team this semester, having participated in swimming in high school. But like VanDerAa, she wanted a different type of sport to do in the water.
“It was hard to get used to not having anything stable under my feet while I’m trying to catch something without being able to grip it or bounce it off anything,” Switzer said.
Water polo is played in four seven-minute quarters, with a 30-second shot clock for scoring before players switch positions. Each team is allotted two timeouts and there is a halftime, but even for an experienced swimmer the game can be exhausting.
“It’s really really tiring…the hard part during the game is having to wrestle off your opponent and swim to the other side and then do it all over again,” Scherelis said.
No matter why members created and joined the team, the ultimate goal is to have fun enjoying the sport.
“I think the biggest goal is to just get people interested in the sport and to have fun,” May said.