Nick McAdam, Editor-in-Chief
The Utica College water polo team finished its four-game shortened season with a record of 0-4, with two losses against Penn State Behrend and Connecticut College.
The team’s season kicked off with the opening two games at home against Penn State Behrend, both being losses in which Utica managed to score five goals in each contest. On March 20, the team traveled to Connecticut in a 2-12 effort which was followed by a 5-17 loss only three hours removed from the first game.
The only statistics recorded from individual members of the team were mentioned in game recaps in the team’s two contests against Connecticut. The last fully-developed stats from the team come from the 2019 season.
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The team’s 2020 season was canceled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 across the country and the world, in which the college opted to cancel all school sports and send students home after spring break.
Since 2016, in a total of 69 games, the team has won only a single game, which came at the CWPA Division III Championships against Washington and Jefferson College, by a score of 5-0. Utica hasn’t finished .500 as far back as the 2012 season.
From 2012 to 2015, however, the team collected a total of 19 wins in four seasons with the help Evelyn Kurzac, a four-time All-American player from 2011 to 2014, who, according to the team’s head coach, Erin Knight, was supposed to be inducted into the Utica College Hall of Fame this past May.
For Knight, she remains optimistic about the program’s future at the college, indicating that the current team is young, still developing and learning to play together. At the moment, the team holds five players who are either sophomores or first-year players, while the rest of the team is a mixture of a pair of graduate students and four juniors.
“Additionally, our goalie was only in for two games after less than three days of practice,” Knight said. “Even so, she was named to the CWPA honor roll for Defensive Player of the Week. Also, in our two dates of play, we had four players on the honor roll.”
Junior Emma Ormsby received Player of the Week recognition after scoring five goals in two games against Penn State Behrend, while Junior Kelly Waryncia was named a part of the Defensive Player of the Week Honor Roll team from the CWPA after recording a save in each of the opening two games.
Knight also acknowledged a level of unfamiliarity going into the season, considering the team’s limited amount of time in the pool to practice before the season started, and the extended break the team received from last season due to the pandemic.
“The team is young and due to COVID-19, they have had very little practice together,” she said. “They have practiced less than three weeks, with some student-athletes having no knowledge of the game prior to that.”
Knight also said, currently, there is no water polo in the NYSPHSSA. In other words, according to Knight, this means that there are no athletes within a four-hour radius that know how to play the game, or have even heard of the sport.
Although the NYSPHSSA website doesn’t mention water polo as a sport, according to Scorestream, there are about 1,375 water polo programs or, at the very least, clubs in New York State, stretching across the Erie Canal from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, up into the Adirondacks and down toward New York City. The mixture of programs, however, can include men’s water polo tournaments as well, while other high school programs may have cut their programs altogether since this database was put together.
Athletic Director David Fontaine noted that Utica College holds the only Division III water polo program in New York State. For each away game, the team is guaranteed to travel at least four hours to play an opponent in the team’s conference.
The goal for Knight and Fontaine regarding this program is to continue to develop and recruit. Knight very much enjoys the fact that the team is having fun playing the sport, the intensity of each game and the conditioning required for it. Although this may be the case, she still wants to see the program win, which, according to her and Fontaine, takes time.
“Our goal is to continue to improve each year,” Fontaine said. “Improvement comes in the form of recruiting and player development. Eventually, that translates into wins.”