On January 11, the official season for Marist women’s water polo was still a week out from its start. But they were hard at work. You couldn’t find them in the McCann pool, though. Instead, the team had recently arrived in Lille, France for a pre-season exhibition tournament.
One weekend later, they were in Honolulu, Hawaii for their first official games of the season. For a collegiate team to do such extensive traveling, especially out of the country, is a quite unusual and unique experience for the players themselves. Captain goalie Carsen Horvatich and captain attacker Lexi Puhl provided some deeper insight into the team’s overall travel experience, and yes, how it’s all paid for.
“We sell raffle tickets,” said Horvatich. “All of athletics is part of this one raffle but what we raise goes straight to us… So each player sells about 30 tickets, [and] that’s how we get to go to all these places.”
The team consists of 23 girls in total. If they were all to sell the estimated 30 tickets, the team would nab 690 tickets-worth of trip funding. Of course, despite all of the team’s efforts, they can’t do all the fundraising on their own. That’s where head coach Chris Vidale comes into play.
“Chris is a huge contributor in finding people to donate money for us… in the program, we don’t get much,” said Horvatich.
Once the team raises the funds and the plans for the trips are in place, they just have to worry about being ready for the game. Needless to say, because of zone changes, time is not necessarily on their side. Think about an entire team experiencing jet lag. According to the Mayo Clinic “jet lag can cause daytime fatigue, an unwell feeling, difficulty staying alert and gastrointestinal problems.”
All problems that could seriously affect gameplay. There is a six-hour difference between New York and France, and France is 11 hours behind Hawaii. Although there is the potential for jet lag to hit, the team attempts to thwart its effects.
“In France, we got there the day before and then we had one game every day,” Horvatich recalled. “Then Hawaii we got there, had one practice, then had two games each day.” The team usually has a cool down once traveling comes to a halt, simply because they’ve been on the plane for so long. That’s not the case when you have games to win.
“It’s definitely difficult, going from… totally different time zones in a matter of two weeks,” she said.
Getting to travel is beneficial for the team in many ways. Of course one of those benefits is the travel part and experiencing multicultural experiences with teammates and friends. Horvatich mentioned that experience involved 24/7 bonding, as well as natural exposure to some of the world’s most famous wonder. The team spent a day in Bruges, Belgium, explored Lille and saw the Paris essentials: the Louvre, and of course, the Eiffel Tower.
While in Hawaii, they were able to go to an outrigger which they described as similar to a club; the team dressed up and enjoyed a meal. They also took pictures on the beach and went on a paddleboarding excursion together. Puhl confidently mentioned that some of the best parts of the trips involved eating.
“We always try to find really good places to eat,” she said. “There’s this amazing udon place in Honolulu that’s got the best noodles, the best udon ever.”
Although the activities outside the game were fun the travel is also practical for the team’s gameplay and season preparation.
“I definitely think it enhances our play,” Puhl said. Traveling to exotic locations may not sound like crippling hardship – and it isn’t — but there’s adversity to it. There’s an adjustment, and at the core of the traveling lies the purpose of winning a game, winning a tournament. That’s not necessarily what it’s all about, but it’s certainly a driving factor.
“Every time you get the chance to try what you learn on new teams, it gives you a different look and prepares you better for next time,” Puhl continued. “The more times you’re exposed to it the more times you get to improve.”
Edited by Will Bjarnar