After several years of waiting, the women’s club water polo team was established at Tufts earlier this semester, when Assistant Athletic Director Branwen Smith-King approved a request to create the team. Junior Captain Taegan Williams had officially proposed the idea to Smith-King last year.
Since then, the newly formed team won its four games during a 14-contest tournament at Bowdoin College last weekend, securing its position as the No. 3 seed team for the North Atlantic Division Championship next month.
Williams, along with sophomores Romy Aboudarham, Sophia Anderson and Emily Grussing, were all previously on the co-ed water polo team. According to Williams, due to the team’s co-ed status, it was difficult to manage playing time since most of the teams they faced were all men. Thus the female members of the co-ed team began discussing possibly breaking away from the team and starting a women’s team.
The co-ed practices were more intimidating, Aboudarham explained, even though she had four years of high school water polo experience. In contrast, at practices for the women’s team, returners teach and encourage newcomers in a more collaborative environment.
“This really set the team dynamic and it showed during the first practice as it wasn’t just one person teaching, but everyone helping each other,” Aboudarham said. “This was something that was missing from the first practice on the co-ed team.”
The new team was formed despite the university’s moratorium on the creation of new club sports teams, which has stood for the past several years due to limited resources and decreased funding, according to a 2016 Daily article.
Facing this roadblock, Williams nonetheless began working with Smith-King to create a separate women’s team. This spring, the team joined the Collegiate Water Polo Association and will compete in three tournaments, Williams explained.
The women’s water polo team was able to form under the moratorium because of the existing co-ed team, according to Smith-King.
“By formally separating the women’s team from the men’s team, the women now are able to compete in games and tournaments, an opportunity that was previously unavailable to them,” Smith-King said.
The women’s water polo team held its first practice on Feb. 21, according to Williams. Aboudarham recalled that the team’s first practice was particularly exciting.
“Walking in and seeing about 14+ girls lined up on the bench all in their swimsuits ready to practice was an unbelievable and unforgettable feeling,” Aboudarham said. “It was amazing to see so many new faces eager to play water polo and truly made it clear that this [women’s] team needed to happen.”
Excited by the turnout, the team decided to compete in a tournament at Yale University the following weekend of Feb. 25 and 26. Despite only winning one of the four games that weekend, Williams said the team was very pleased with the outcome, especially because it won its game against Yale. The team only had nine players that weekend, which is just two more than the required seven for a game.
The next weekend of March 4 and 5, the team won all four games, including a sudden death overtime win against MIT, to whom they had lost the previous weekend.
The team has one more tournament — the league championships — this season on April 8 and 9 at MIT.