The Carleton women’s water polo team is off to a great start this season, having already made a big splash in the national rankings. The women’s water polo team, affectionately known as the “Righteous Babes,” had their first tournament this past weekend to much success, defeating #6-ranked Grinnell College. The team attributes their successes to their well-rounded players, able to play both offensively and defensively, including several freshmen who helped secure a well-deserved victory.
The team began the year ranked #10 nationally in women’s Division III, based off the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s (CWPA) preseason coaches’ poll, which is especially impressive given the fact that the Righteous Babes do not have a coach at all. After beating Grinnell, the women’s team has moved up to #8 in the national rankings, tied with Tufts.
That Carleton’s water polo team has done so well on the national stage while remaining entirely student lead is, according to captain Lucy Newman ’21, a testament to the strength of the team’s culture and self-driven work ethic.
Running a nationally ranked team at a small liberal arts college is no easy task, given the small student body size and lack of resources available to other large institutions. Yet Newman believes that because of the team’s small size and lack of formal coaching, the team is able to “have a lot more fun and freedom than other teams.” The Babes do not require any member of the team to attend a set number of practices, and it’s up to individual members of the team to decide their level of commitment. The team is open to anyone, and on occasion Carls have joined just to play individual tournaments. The loose and relaxed nature of the team, in Newman’s eyes, contributes to its successes—compared to more formal team structures, there seems to be more joy during Babes’ tournaments. The coaches like to “keep things really fun” on the team, but students are still motivated enough that they can come together and “play some great polo.” The team is renowned for being one of the most fun to play against, and it’s that spirit of competitiveness and joy that helps the babes succeed. Even in the face of losing, they keep their spirits high.
The women’s team in particular has been incredibly successful over the past several years. In 2018, the Babes were ranked second in their division. Last year, the Babes won their division and headed to nationals to compete at Villanova. This year, they’re looking to repeat their successes, while still maintaining that fun atmosphere. Newman notes that as a mostly-women run team, it’s “really special” getting to go out into a male dominated sport and succeed. During the co-ed season, most of the other school’s coaches and captains are men. In a male-dominated field, Newman notes, women are often sidelined. Getting to run an incredibly successful team with other women has created more “hype” and more “hope” for Newman, allowing the team to create a “supportive environment for the team to be competitive in.”
The Righteous Babes are playing their next tournament April 4 -5 in Rock Island, Illinois against at Augustana.