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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Women’s water polo ready for the test

    J.J. Hedlund of the Arizonas womens club water polo team holds onto the ball while swimming at the Student Recreation Center in practice Sunday. Hedlund and her team compete in the Southwest Division Championship Saturday and Sunday at the Rec Center.
    J.J. Hedlund of the Arizona’s women’s club water polo team holds onto the ball while swimming at the Student Recreation Center in practice Sunday. Hedlund and her team compete in the Southwest Division Championship Saturday and Sunday at the Rec Center.

    Emily Schmit knows a thing or two about big tests. A graduate student at Arizona, she is pursuing both a law degree and a master’s in women’s studies.

    This weekend, however, Schmit faces one of her biggest tests of the year outside of the classroom. Her task: as coach, to lead the women’s water polo club through the Southwest Division Championships at the Student Recreation Center.

    A tournament victory will open the road to Williamstown, Mass., and a berth in the National Collegiate Club Championships. And if anything, the team is well-prepared for this weekend’s “”exam.””

    Arizona is enjoying its best season since its last Nationals appearance in 2000, undefeated in its division and 12-6 overall. Schmit professes confidence, but at the same time, she isn’t taking anything for granted.

    “”Let’s just say I’m still having anxiety dreams at night,”” she said.

    With a rigorous academic schedule and the burden of coaching a successful program, one can allow Schmit a few bad dreams.

    Her dedication to the club does not go unnoticed among its members. Junior Rachel Mau, the team treasurer, said Schmit’s commitment rubs off on the rest of the team.

    If you go
    Southwest Division Championship, Collegiate Water Polo Association

    Student Recreation Center pool, free of charge, Saturday and Sunday

    Saturday, April 14
    11 a.m. – No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Colorado State
    5:40 p.m. – No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 Colorado

    Sunday, April 15
    10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    All games TBD

    “”It doesn’t really give us much room to slack off when we look over and our law student coach is there every two hours when we have practice,”” Mau said.

    “”She’s one of those people that you always want to work for,”” she added. “”She makes you want to work hard. She makes you want to do well. She makes you do what you can do best.””

    Schmit keeps her players going, but what keeps Schmit going? A former Division-I athlete at Indiana, Schmit just loves water polo.

    “”It’s a strenuous balance,”” Schmit said. “”People always ask me how I manage to coach while I’m going to law school. I think the better question is how I manage to go to law school while I’m coaching. This where I’m happiest. I make the time.””

    Fellow graduate student Dani Phelps said that Schmit has missed “”maybe one practice.””

    Phelps, who captains the team alongside seniors Shari Robbins and Lizzie Stevulak, sees water polo as a welcome relief from her graduate courses in classics and anthropology.

    “”It’s getting a little daunting, especially right now,”” Phelps said. “”We’ve got the tournament coming up and all these papers are due, but water polo’s a nice excuse to just get out and go in the water and relax for two hours, even if you’re swimming and breathing really hard the whole time.””

    “”It’s a great stress reliever. Very therapeutic too,”” she added. “”There are two different parts of the brain that you use for throwing the ball and writing a 15-page paper on Roman civilization, so they balance each other out.””

    Even with end-of-semester pressure ratcheting up, Phelps isn’t letting the stakes of this weekend’s tournament overwhelm her.

    “”I’m really looking forward to it,”” she said. “”It’s going to be a good day in the sun.””

    Phelps and Arizona can afford to be confident going into this weekend’s tournament.

    In addition to sweeping its division, the squad has played a number of close games against non-club opponents, which account for all the team’s losses. The Wildcats even managed to knock off Laverne, a Division III program.

    “”It’s absolutely awesome,”” said Mau of knocking off higher tier competition. “”Most of them kind of write you off, expect you to be a club team, expect you not to put up a fight.

    “”It’s awesome to watch their coaches get frustrated.””

    Mau said that hanging tough against a difficult non-division schedule gives the Wildcats added confidence in this weekend’s tournament, which will feature only club teams.

    The Wildcats have already beaten their initial tournament opponents, Colorado and Colorado State, twice this year – both by comfortable margins.

    Of course, that also means a target is painted on the Wildcats’ collective backs.

    “”It is nerve-wracking because we are the team to beat and all the teams want to beat us,”” Schmit said. “”But we’ve got a great team and we work really together as a team in the water and on land.””

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