Wow. The countdown finally ended, and we got to compete for a national championship. At home. And we won.
The team got together to recap one another’s experiences and see how everyone felt about it — speechless. To be able to play for a national title and look up and see about 500 students cheering for you in the stands was one of the coolest experiences I have ever been a part of. This “cool factor” was echoed throughout the entire team.
One thing we stressed going into a game like that was keeping faith and trust in each other regardless of the scoreboard or the situation. We talked about remaining calm and positive even if things took a turn or if we went down by 4 goals. We were put to the test on Sunday. And we passed.
It is hard to explain the emotions and thoughts that go into a championship game. I wish I could say we planned things to go that way and everything went as planned, but that is not true. It is all about having courage and playing with heart; it’s about who embraces the moment. Games like those are scary and they require you to dig deeper. Both teams were prepared for the challenge.
I have never been a part of a game between two teams that wanted to win more than that one. Nor any tournament, for that matter. Every single team that competed this weekend was a great one. I could sit here and say that we work the hardest, put in the most time, and deserved and wanted this more than any other team, but that just wouldn’t be true. That tournament, and that game especially, was full of athletes and girls who have poured their hearts into their team and season.
Huge credit to UCLA for being the toughest opponent I have ever faced. That game was probably the hardest game I have ever played. That is an amazing, well-coached team who never fails to put us to the test. However, there can only be one winner, and luckily for us, it was our day.
One of the coolest things about the win was the performance of our seniors. We needed people to step up and they did. It was a perfect stage, full of excitement, and they were ready to perform. Ashley Grossman and Kiley Neushul combined for all seven of our goals. There are definitely worse ways to cap a college water polo career.
And our final senior, Emily Dorst, is the happiest, loudest and greatest encourager I have ever encountered in my lifetime. These girls are a shining example of what it means to be a Stanford student-athlete, and I know speak for my entire team when I say that they will be missed. To get to play with these girls and alongside my sister for two years has been a gift.
Some people call it championship Sunday. We call it celebration Sunday. To celebrate all the time and hard work we have put into the season. To celebrate every drill and every swim set. We treated the game on Sunday as an opportunity to celebrate each other. And we were lucky enough to do that at home in front of a huge crowd who was there to celebrate with us. It’s a great day to be a national champion, but an even better day to be a Stanford Cardinal!
Home of Champions.
Contact Jamie Neushul at jneushul ‘at’ stanford.edu.