For their first tournament of the season, Western Washington University's women's water polo team will be hosting at the Wade King Student Recreation Center.
In this weekend's tournament, the Vikings will be competing against colleges in and out of state including University of Oregon, University of Washington, Oregon State University, Portland State University and Gonzaga University.
Vikings women’s water polo will play against University of Oregon's B team at 11 a.m. and Oregon State University at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18. On Sunday, Feb. 19, the team will play against University of Oregon's A team at 10 a.m. and University of Washington at 2 p.m.
The best games will be against Oregon State University, according to Western fourth-year coach of the men's and women's water polo teams Sam Kristofferson.
He said the team remembers the rival from previous years, having had a few close games towards the end of last year's season. They plan to use that to their advantage by building plays around them.
"The first tournament is always the steepest learning curve because it's where you gel as a team," said Piper Olsen, captain and Western fourth-year student.
The team has been working hard in practice in preparation for the tournament ahead, according to Kristofferson.
"This tournament is gonna be good. We're playing on our home court; we know this pool better than everyone else," Kristofferson said. "If anyone's going to be mentally prepared for this tournament, it's gonna be us."
The Vikings’ court isn't a traditional 10-foot deep pool. The rec center's shallow-to-deep pool will play to the Vikings’ favor.
"We have an advantage there because we're used to playing on a shallow court," Olsen said. "The refs will call it if they see us standing on the bottom … which can be advantageous."
Kristofferson said the team's strengths are grace and their ability to listen to each other.
"This team is better than ever," he said.
Kristofferson said by building confidence through repetition and going over tactics dozens of times, players naturally improve.
"Drilling with your team gives a great opportunity to get to know how your teammates operate in the pool," Western third-year student Delaney Alvord said. "That kind of familiarity is a huge step up on other teams who might not be as close knit as we are."
The Vikings men and women’s water polo teams practice together, which, according to Alvord, is an important part of their training and practice. They are able to build on their strengths and build the community.
"There's 1,000 different ways to play the game, and our way is unique," Kristofferson said.
The physical and close sport can be described as a mix of basketball, soccer and handball, all incorporated in the water.
"It's an intimate and aggressive sport; you get so close with the person you're playing against," Alvord said.
Not only is the sport intimate with their competition, the Western women's water polo team is a close unit according to Alvord.
"Everyone builds each other up," Olsen said. "We try to build this team off of interpersonal connections."
Alvord said having close relationships with teammates is important because the team bonds, which ultimately helps with morale — a vital aspect in team sports.
"As a coach and as someone who's dedicated to this team, I'd love to see these players’ friends and family or people who are just interested in the sport to come and watch," Kristofferson said. "Let's fill the deck like we did for the men's tournament, let's do it two times over. It's a free event; we want everybody to come support the Vikings."
Viking women’s water polo is open to anyone wanting to play, and you can join at any time throughout the year by emailing the team.
For last year's scores and standings, click here.
For more photos of the water polo team, click here.
Briana Tuvey (she/her) is a sports and recreation reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a third-year and is planning to major in visual journalism with a minor in psychology and sociology. She also enjoys soccer, photography and watching movies.
You can contact her at email@example.com