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Women’s Water Polo Takes Its Shot

The women’s water polo team is wearing blinders, says head coach Kyle Witt.

And that’s something he’s very excited about.

“They seem so singularly focused,” he says. “They share a common goal. … They really want that conference title. They really want it.”

There’s a good reason for that. For the team’s five seniors, this year is their last chance to make the NCAA Tournament –– something that Witt says will require winning the Golden Coast Conference title first.

The team is no slouch, having won GCC tournaments for two years running. In fact, LMU is the preseason favorite to win the regular season title this year, edging out 2014 and 2015 conference champion San Diego State. Still, Witt is quick to dismiss that “preseason stuff.”

“There’s praise, and there’s negativity,” he says. “Don’t listen to either of them.”

LMU women’s water polo has certain garnered plenty of the former, including having 11 team members make the GCC’s 2015 All-Academic team. But right now, it’s the adversity that Witt relishes. His team is known for taking on a tough schedule, frontloaded with top-ranked opponents, in large part to prepare the younger, more inexperienced players for conference play. So when the team had four losses at the Stanford Tournament in early February, Witt hardly flinched.

“That’s completely what sport is about. You get to come back the next day and try again,” he says. “So you lost four games when you wanted to get one, two or three upsets. It didn’t happen. Move on, get better, talk about what to fix. If you handle adversity well, you’re fine.”

That resilience will prove crucial this season, given the high stakes for the team’s five seniors. Witt made the unusual decision to name all of them co-captains, partly because he felt they all bring something unique to the team and partly because he thought they would all lead regardless of who is captain. Together, they are headed for a do-or-die moment: win the conference title and get an automatic NCAA bid –– or graduate without ever having a shot.

“Here they are as seniors with a chance to go to the dance,” Witt says. “Our focus and determination [is] to get those seniors to that NCAA Tournament we think they have a right to go to.”