Mary Devine

Like every sports team, the Whittier College Women’s Water Polo team has a routine they follow that helps them get pumped up and ready to beat their opponents. From the moment the team enters the locker room to the time they hit the water, each team member has participated in rituals and are ready to put up a good fight.

Being a part of the team takes a large amount of dedication. They meet up by the pool every afternoon from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for practice, ready to train and strengthen their skills inside the water. On top of the vigorous pool practices, the team has weight lifting in the Graham Athletic Center (GAC) on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. to help build and keep the muscles necessary to take on their opponents. “We go to practice everyday knowing what needs to get done or be practiced on,” said senior attacker Isabella Gorrocino. 

After practice concludes, the team makes their way out of the water into a small huddle for a quick recap from their Head Coach Justin Pudwill. They listen to every word, and when it is time to depart, they come into an even tighter huddle to give their signature goodbye. “At the end of every practice, we do a cheer and we all fist bump our coaches,” said senior goalie Caitlin Bronzan. 

As for rituals before the game, the team has created a few over the years that are hard to change. Before every game, the girls meet with their coaches in the locker room an hour before battle. There, they listen and watch as Coach Pudwill describes and illustrates the plays the team needs to run on a whiteboard located on the locker room wall. Before departing, Coach Pudwill gives insight on the numbers of specific opposing players that they should watch out for.

Once the coaches head back up to the deck, it is time for the players to get ready. When the speaker system is turned on, tremendously loud music flows through the air and makes its way all around the room. “We usually play a lot of different types of music in the locker room, whether it be Hip Hop, EDM, or Cumbias,” said Gorrocino. “We listen to it all and have little dance parties to wake us up.”

As the team changes, they also stretch and rock out until it’s time to walk up to the deck. “We always laugh and have fun before games,” said Bronzan. “That’s what really pumps us up.”

After pumping themselves full of good vibes and energy, the team heads up to the deck in their black and purple robes.  They warm up together after diving into the cold water of the pool with the sounds of instrumental versions of common rap and hip hop songs playing overhead. The reason they listen to instrumental versions is because there’s a strict “no cussing” rule in place when it comes to playing music at their games. Once warmed up and on the same wavelength, the team waits on the time to face their next opponent.

Unlike most teams, the Women’s Water Polo team doesn’t have captains. “We don’t have any because we feel it would cause unnecessary drama on the team,” said Gorrocino. Instead of assigning the role of captain to one or two players, Coach Pudwill asks all the seniors to take on the role without actually using the title. Most of the seniors feel they have done just that.

“I feel like all of us seniors have a leadership role because we help show the underclassmen how the team works and what our coach expects of us,” said Bronzan.

Alongside team rituals, members of Women’s Water Polo carry with them significant and personal pre-game rituals that they believe will bring them luck. “Before the whistle is blown for the sprint, I usually go under water and make a quick sign of the cross to wish me some luck before the game,” said Gorrocino.

“One of my rituals before a game is, I have to lunge to both high corners of the cage before the sprint, and I have to have my teammate Hannah cap me and also zip my suit every time,” said Bronzan. “I also always have to do a lap of backstroke during my warm up, which is funny because it doesn’t help me warm up at all, it’s just something I started doing randomly and have done ever since.”

The Whittier College Women’s Water Polo team’s distinct ways of preparation has helped develop the cohesive and positive energy amongst the players. These dynamics have led the team to several victories in the past and will surely bring them more victories in the future.