Water polo club working up to big tourney

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The UVic water polo club brands itself as a great spot for beginners and experienced players. They are first and foremost a recreational club; something club Vice President and head coach Patty Massel says could be changing in the near future.

“I’d definitely like to see the club grow to be able sustain a competitive team and a recreational side. Like an A and B split,” she says.

Massel, a 21-year-old fourth-year studying biochemistry, has been playing water polo for as long as she can remember. Born in Halifax and raised in Ottawa, she started playing competitively in her early teens. Not everyone on the UVic water polo team is a veteran of over 10 years. The team welcomes players with little-to-no experience.

“Our club caters to everyone, regardless of experience,” Massel says. “The priority is growing our membership, and then we can think of building that into a competitive team.”

Despite their club status at UVic, the club operates very much as a team. With three head coaches, they train three times per week at the McKinnon pool. At any given time, the team can be found focusing on fitness, technical skills, or team strategy. The team even travels to two or more tournaments per semester.

Second-year economics student Colin Scarffe is new to water polo since arriving at UVic. The 19-year-old Toronto native grew up swimming competitively and playing hockey. To him, this was the perfect combination.

“With a swimming and hockey background, the transition to water polo was pretty smooth,” Scarffe says.

As a new player, Scarffe says his experience with the water polo club has been great. With the coaching structure such as it is, new players get to benefit from several methods of teaching.

“We have three head coaches, and they all bring their unique perspectives,” he says. “They know the game very well, and it’s really helpful for everyone.”

The team has already been to two tournaments this season. Earlier in the year, they attended the UBC Fall Classic and, more recently, sent two full teams to the local November tournament, Spooktakular. They had a full A- and B-squad split, which is promising to Massel and the leadership committee.

“After a kind of disappointing finish at the UBC Fall Classic, it was really nice to get two full teams out at Spooktacular,” Massel says.

When Massel arrived at UVic, they had just enough players for one team. The growth in the past four years is exciting. Her primary goal is to keep growing the program to the point where two teams is a sustainable option.

Next semester, the UVic water polo team will send a squad to Seattle for their big tournament of the spring. Having won gold in 2012 in Seattle, the team would certainly like to do it again. Massel says the goal changes depending on what personnel can make the tournament.

“Depending on what players we bring down, the goal could either be winning the tournament or developing skills,” she says. “By that time, we expect our newer players to be contributing more and our returning players to be working on their own game.”

As an admittedly competitive guy, Scarffe enjoys pushing himself and teammates to get better at practice. Scarffe is looking forward to the Seattle tournament. For him, it’s one of the highlights of the season.

“It’s some of the best water polo we play collectively as a team,” he says.

As for Massel, she acts as club VP, head coach, and a player. Sometimes balancing her three hats can be a challenge. That being said, Massel says her experience as a coach has been extremely rewarding.  She will graduate after next season, and although she thinks her days as a competitive player may be done after graduating, she certainly wants to keep involved as a coach, whether that be at UVic or elsewhere.

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