April 25, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Elizabeth Clarke has been a significant piece to the puzzle this season as the `Cats brace for their first MAAC tournament appearance in five years. The senior has compiled 29 goals and registered six assists for her 35 points on the regular-season slate. She has appeared in all 27 games thus far.
1) You joined water polo midway through the 2011 campaign after completing two years with the swimming and diving team. Can you describe the transition from one to the other? Are there any striking similarities and/or differences between them?
"I would say the biggest transition from swimming to water polo is the individual aspect. As much as you try to make swimming a team sport it can be a little individualistic at times. With water polo it is more of a team concept. You can't really have success without everyone working together and aiming to improve the fluidity of the team. That is what I would say the biggest difference coming from swimming to water polo. As far as game dynamics, with swimming you go back and forth it gets a little monotonous, but it is fun. I have been trying to get back the skills of water polo."
"The swimming background has certainly helped with water polo. The skills I learned from swimming have helped in my ability to counterattack and have given me an advantage with breakaways. Also, it has benefited with the game of water polo cardio wise. There are definitely some skills that carry over, but at the same time are pretty different sports. You need ball and shooting skills with water polo that you obviously would never use for swimming."
2) What are your impressions of the MAAC conference now having played a full regular season in 2012?
"It is a very competitive league. At least from high school I've noticed, the play is a lot more aggressive and the swimmers are much faster than I expected to be honest. It is a close knit conference. We kind of all know each other. Damon's previous coach is the current head coach of Iona so we know those girls more than the other ones. It is definitely competitive, but it is still fun because you match up with different teams that you are familiar with. At least for us, we all knew who to watch out for and this made it possible to dissect their plays. Unlike a huge conference, you know more about who to watch out for and it is easier to prepare for games."
3) Talk about the team this year. What do you feel has been the key to earning a MAAC tournament berth?
"Determination. At least from last year from what I've seen since being on the team, we have picked up our work-ethic and have been striving to work together. In the beginning of the year, we were extremely vigorous. Our team started running three to four miles in preparation. We would run sprints and jog the hills on Lancaster. We were trying to work together as a team to get in the best possible shape to begin the season. I think we have worked together better in the pool from this. We know where everyone is and use the benefits of some people's strengths and capitalize on that. We know how to work together as a team, which I think has improved over the years."
4) Explain your role this year as a senior. Has it been any different from last?
"I was new last year so I was trying to find my place on the team, but this year I have tried to keep the positive attitude up, especially when we were down or were in a tough situation. For instance, one of the last games against Siena we were up three and then all of a sudden out of nowhere it was a tie game. I was just trying and push everyone to keep going. I would tell them they can do it, especially when it was the fourth quarter and everyone was exhausted. My goal was to keep the positive momentum up and make sure that we would be able to finish the game hard and strong."
5) Do you have any pre-game rituals that you perform before a match to get ready?
"It is funny you say that. I'm the sprinter on the team. At the beginning of every quarter they will drop the ball in the middle and someone from each side sprints for it. Before each sprint, Julie (Penkal) and I have a handshake that we do. We came up with it before one of the games and ever since then we have had a good luck charm from it. It is something that is fun and it also lightens the mood a little bit."
"We always have a team huddle before each quarter and after each called timeout. Every time we are in the group huddle we do a little chant. It gets everyone pumped up and ready."
6) Discuss your emotions when you realized you were heading to MAAC Championships.
"I was ecstatic when I realized, although I was bummed after the Siena game because we lost it. I thought our chances were very minimal in making the tournament so coming into that Sunday I tried to enjoy what I thought was my last day of water polo. I was trying to make the best of it. Then when the St. Francis and Siena game ended, it was crazy. I didn't expect them to win by one and have it turn out in our favor, but it worked out great. I think it is great for the program since it has been awhile that we have been to the MAAC tournament. It boosted not only our team, but also the school's view of us and I think it has been great so far. We have been pumped and have been working hard from that point on. Hopefully it works out for us."
7) What has been your best moment as a Wildcat water polo player?
"I would say playing in the game against Siena here at Villanova. Even though we lost, it was so much fun being here and going into triple overtime. It was a great feeling looking up in the stands and seeing so many people rooting and cheering for us. I really thought in that game everyone gave it their absolute all. Even though in the end we didn't end up winning, it was great seeing the stands packed and everyone cheering. It was a really exciting day, even though it sounds ironic because we lost, but it was great being at our home pool on senior day."