Women’s water polo to host first match

The GW women’s water polo team will open its inaugural varsity season Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Smith Center, with quite a challenge – the 20th-ranked Terrapins of Maryland.

It’s going to be a very tough game, GW Coach Scott Reed said.

If the Colonials can sail as smoothly as they did in gaining varsity status, perhaps they will have luck Wednesday night.

The addition of the Mount Vernon student body and a growing female student population meant GW needed more women’s sports to meet Title IX guidelines, which prevent gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. Women’s water polo, after only three years as a club sport at GW, got the call. The Terrapins are still waiting for varsity status.

In women’s water polo, club and varsity teams compete with one another. Starting next season, women’s water polo will become an NCAA-recognized sport and club and varsity squads will compete separately.

Maryland, a team that Reed calls one of the traditional top three powers in the East, will be a mighty challenge for the Colonials in their very first varsity match.

The Colonials will have some help from an interesting source, junior Heather Walenga, a transfer from Maryland who came to GW to take advantage of the scholarships GW’s varsity status provides.

She’s basically the team leader in the water because she has such a great knowledge of the game, Reed said.

Reed, in his first year at GW, is coaching his first women’s team in any sport at the college level. His men’s water polo team finished 6-19 in the fall.

There’s a difference, Reed said of coaching women and men. There’s more of a team unity – a team closeness with the women.

In the Mid-Atlantic Division, Reed said Princeton University is the best, but he said he expects GW to be more than a basement dweller.

We’re not the typical start-up program, so to speak, said Reed, whose predecessor, Van Hoffman, was able to do some recruiting in anticipation of varsity status. In our league, we’re in the middle of the pack . I think in our division, we’ll range from second to fourth.

After Wednesday’s match, the Colonials will host only one other event at the Smith Center this season, the Collegiate Water Polo Association Weekend No. 2, March 25-26.

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