From the moment the IU water polo players were dressed and ready, it was known Friday’s game against McKendree was all about senior center Bronwyn Smith.
No. 17 IU’s senior night started off with the Hoosier players lining up in front of the pool. Everyone in the Counsilman-Billingsley Aquatic Center had their eyes on the video board where the team paid tribute to Smith.
At the end of the video a trio of players concluded their tribute by saying, “We love you, Grandma.”
“I’m not the oldest person on the team, but I act like it,” Smith said. “It’s an ongoing joke for our team, so it was funny.”
IU Coach Ryan Castle said it was nice to see the players’ tribute to Smith and he said it’s a testament to the influence she leaves on her teammates.
“Bronwyn left an impact on our team, and it’s cool to see how much she bonded with the girls she’s been with,” Castle said. “She cooks for them, she always loves to be around the team, and she does everything that a grandma would.”
Smith’s mother was in town from Pennsylvania for the special night, and the duo was given flowers, an honorary picture and swim cap and balloons to cap the pre-game festivities.
IU started off hot out of the gate and scored three quick goals on the McKendree Bearcats, who were being suffocated by the Hoosiers’ tight defense. The counter-attack from IU couldn’t be stopped in the first half, and freshman Mollie Williams took advantage by scoring a hat trick in the first quarter of play.
“We just wanted to work on things and execute what we needed to today,” Castle said. “We were shaky in the first few minutes, but we got our counter attack going, which led to success.”
Smith’s first opportunity to shine came in the first quarter as well when she was given the ball to take a penalty off of a costly mistake by a Bearcat defender. She converted from the spot and shortly after she managed to score another goal at point-blank range to extend the Hoosier lead to 7-0.
When the buzzer sounded to end the first half, the score sheet included nine different Hoosiers and a comfortable 12-0 lead for IU.
The second half was more of the same for the Hoosiers and Smith managed to score her third goal of the game in the third quarter to complete her hat trick.
Coming into Friday’s game, Smith said she wanted to record every statistic possible in the game, and even a save from the back of the net.
Her opportunity came midway through the fourth quarter when Castle took a timeout to give Smith time to put on the “1B” cap reserved for the goalie. She made her way to the net as the crowd cheered her on.
With 57 seconds left in the game, Smith saved a McKendree shot to her right, which was her first career save.
“I was nervous as hell because I was expecting a face shot, but luckily that didn’t happen, and she managed to get a block, so it was good,” Castle said.
Smith said it was an awesome experience being in goal, and said it was even better that she was able to record a save.
“Those are the kind of games that you want to go out on, and I got every single stat except for the yellow card so it was good,” Smith said
McKendree managed to get one goal back with 11 seconds left in the game, which brought an end to the Hoosiers’ clean sheet.
The Hoosiers closed the game out and won 21-1, their largest margin of victory this season. IU will stay in Bloomington next weekend for the Collegiate Water Polo Association Championship Tournament where the No. 4-seeded Hoosiers will match up against Harvard in the first game.
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