LIU Athletics Adds New Water Polo Team
By: Kyleigh Barao, Staff Writer
This fall, the LIU Athletics Department has added a new Division 1 women’s water polo team. The Tam has been practicing at the Brooklyn Campus since mid-Sept. and has joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), competing against nine different teams, including St. Francis Brooklyn, Sienna, Iona, VMI and Wagner.
“The LIU community should look forward to some fun games,” says head coach Gabrielle Juarez. The new team, its supporters hope, will be making a big splash on campus after the recent purge of sports teams including the baseball, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse,
and soccer teams, which were moved to the Post campus on Long Island after the end of last semester.
“I really like the idea of a new team being added to our campus,” said Jae Watts, a junior at LIU and former member of the women’s soccer team. “We lost a lot of athletes in this merger so this gives us a chance to start growing our family of athletes here in Brooklyn again.”
Juarez is originally from California and previously served as a local head coach at both the Brooklyn Hustle Water Polo club and Mako Water Polo Club. She has been featured in many water polo magazines for her accomplishments, which includes building a water polo program for 14 and unders to participate in the Junior Olympics in San Jose, Calif.
Since water polo isn’t such a well-known sport in New York City, here are some key points about the game. First, each team has seven players in the water at once, the pool is typically set up with two goals, one for each team on each end of the pool. The game is also typically played in the deep end of a pool, if possible, forcing the athletes to constantly be engaged to keep themselves above water, which is no easy feat.
Juarez dedicated the run-up to the current season to recruitment. And some of the remaining teams around the Brooklyn campus opened up their dorm rooms at Conolly Hall on weekends last winter to host the prospective players. “My recruiting experience was what convinced me to go to LIU,” said freshman water polo player Jeannet Garcia, who comes from Florida. Seeing the pictures and hearing about it is very different to actually getting to know the people. Everyone was so incredibly nice and welcoming, especially my hosts, that I felt like it could really be my new home, and now it is.”
The team currently has 12 players for the season, with 11 freshmen and one junior who transferred in to LIU. Juarez says that she wants to eventually build a roster of about 22 players.
“Being on this team is really great because we get the opportunity to set the tone and culture of this new program for the next few years,” said Julia Zebak, a Brooklyn Campus freshman who plays for the new water polo squad and majors in biochemistry.
“I think the school should look forward to my new student athletes because they exemplify being scholars in the classroom as well as [being] good athletes,” says Juarez. Due to it being
a spring sport, the team’s game schedule is still tentative.