CSUSB’s women’s water polo endured an off-season full of strife only to start a season filled with even more struggles.
The team is off to a disappointing start after two straight years of subpar performances.
The team started off the season with a 3-3 record but immediately lost 7 straight and an average team would start to have doubts about their ability to compete.
But this is not an average team. They have already experienced hardship in and out of the pool.
“I was really excited to get [the season] underway because I knew we had so much talent and so much potential,” said Head Coach Sarah Reneker.
However, four student-athletes did not have the drive that was needed in order to compete at a collegiate level.
“Sometimes players come in from high-school or a [junior college] and think ‘I got this. . .’ but the college level is so much more intense [that] a lot of them get burned out,” said Reneker.
Reneker declined to name the two recruits and two returning players outright but did indicate that they had a ton of talent and that if they had the heart that some of the other players had, they would have been extremely valuable players to the team.
Reneker believes that the off-season struggles may have made them a better team because she would rather have a team with less talent and bigger hearts than a team with more talent but did not have the drive to compete at the highest level.
“Our team is very bonded and very positive with one another so it worked out for the best,” said Reneker.
Still, many obstacles have risen from the decision of the girls to leave the team. The most important may be that the team is shorthanded as they only have three girls that are able to come off the bench and give the starters a rest.
They are playing teams that have more than 20 players on the team while the lady coyotes only have 13 girls.
The best example is when CSUSB played the NCAA Division I and 14th ranked Hartwick College. Hartwick has 23 players on the roster, 10 more than CSUSB, but the Coyotes were still able to compete and only lost 14-10.
In spite of all the struggles the team has endured, the goal remains the same: to get better and improve their conference seeding from the last couple years.
“We never give up because we know how much talent we have and how much heart we have,” said Reneker. “We actually have a good chance of finishing third or fourth.”
The Coyotes have not had a winning season since 2008 where they went 20-17 overall. Since then, they are a combined 27-46 and have finished eighth each of the past two years.
The team still has quite a way to go considering the seven game losing streak but there are areas that could be improved that would immediately have an impact on their win-loss record.
Reneker believes that the biggest improvement the team needs to make to start winning more games is to communicate better.
“We need to communicate more on offense, that way we will be stronger when finishing the game,” said Reneker. “We are right there with all these teams, we’re losing by one goal but it’s because we are not finishing,” said Reneker.
The Lady ‘Yotes have lost five games by two goals or less. Being able to finish those games would have taken a disappointing record and transformed it into a very strong start for a talented yet short-handed team.