Club water polo finishes seventh

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 5/7/12 10:00pm

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Lisa Rennels '14 defends Lindenwood University's Meghann Kopecky in the women's club water polo's game on Sunday.

Dartmouth entered the tournament unranked nationally and seeded 11th out of 16 teams. The team encountered No. 6 Notre Dame in the first round of the tournament. Dartmouth previously faced Notre Dame during the team's spring training trip to California in March and lost by a score of 14-2. Dartmouth has improved tremendously throughout the season, according to co-captain Haley Carstensen '12, and the improvement showed in Dartmouth's 11-8 upset of Notre Dame at nationals. Carstensen, who was named to the All-Tournament second team, said that Dartmouth planned to "seize the first and fourth quarter" against Notre Dame.

"We wanted to jump on them in the first quarter because they were not expecting anything from us," Carstensen said. "We wanted to get some quick goals. The fourth [quarter] is always our strength because of our conditioning."

The team stepped up its conditioning this year with the help of new head coach Jim Wilson. Wilson, who received the tournament's Outstanding Coach Award, is also the head coach of Dartmouth's men's and women's swimming and diving teams, and he incorporated more challenging swimming workouts into the water polo team's practices.

Dartmouth accomplished its goal of seizing control early and jumped out to a 5-1 lead after one period. Notre Dame worked to inch its way back into the game, but the Dartmouth defense held strong while the offense continued to come up with clutch goals. Dartmouth never led by fewer than three goals the rest of the game and went on to win, 11-8.

Carstensen led Dartmouth with four goals, and Grace McDevitt '14 and co-captain Elizabeth Kamai '12 each had three goals. Margaret Rollins '15 rounded out the scoring with one goal.

"We knew if we forgot about the past and focused on our team now and how hard we've trained that we could beat them," Kamai said. "They're a really good team, and it was really an upset. It was awesome to know we were a good enough team to play at their level and be on their level."

Next up for Dartmouth was a quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 University of Michigan. Michigan eliminated Dartmouth in a close 7-4 affair, beginning the game by scoring two quick goals. Dartmouth fought back to even the score, however, and took the lead when Carstensen scored her second goal of the game with 19 seconds remaining in the first half. Dartmouth was in the lead until 3:18 remained in the third quarter, when Michigan began a 5-1 run to secure the win.

In Saturday's second game, Dartmouth faced No. 7 University of California, Santa Cruz. Carstensen scored the first goal of the game, but UC Santa Cruz rebounded to take a 5-2 lead heading into halftime. After a scoreless third quarter for both teams, UC Santa Cruz scored three more goals to Dartmouth's one and defeated the Big Green, 8-3.

In its final game of the tournament on Sunday, Dartmouth faced No. 18 Lindenwood University in the seventh-place game. In its fourth game of the weekend, Dartmouth took advantage of its conditioning to secure a 2-2 record for the weekend and claim seventh place with a 5-4 victory.

"It had been a long weekend, but we knew because of training so hard that we were a strong enough team to win [the game]," Kamai said. "We wanted to win and come out of the tournament with an even record."

The game was intense from the start with Lindenwood coming out aggressively on the offensive end. Goalkeeper Shelley Wenzel '14 was up to the task, however, recording 10 saves for Dartmouth. After battling all game, Lindenwood scored with 2:59 remaining to tie the game at four. Needing a goal to end her senior season with a win, Kamai drove in with 11 seconds left and sliced the ball past the opposing goalkeeper's arms to score the game-winner for Dartmouth.

"Elizabeth just had this look in her eyes, like the ball was going in no matter what," Carstensen said. "It went right through the goalie's arms."

Lindenwood was extremely physical, and the game was "probably one of the toughest games any of us had ever played," according to Kamai.

"[The win in the final game] was just the best way to finish the season when we worked so hard," Carstensen said.

Kamai added that she was pleased with the team's success despite the Dartmouth program's modest origins.

"I'm incredibly proud of our team," Kamai said. "We don't have a history of a varsity team like a lot of the other schools. They're also huge schools with a much larger pool to choose from. We're a tiny little college in New Hampshire and we got seventh."

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