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Student Profiles

A Splash of Resilience and Unity
Kelly Frumkin

A Splash of Resilience and Unity

With support from the Women’s Water Polo Endowment Fund, the team is ready to come back stronger than ever!

Two months into their season, the Santa Clara University Women’s Water Polo program recorded eight wins before the West Coast Conference canceled all spring competitions due to COVID-19. Despite uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and future games, the women’s water polo team has unified, remained resilient, and plans to return stronger than ever.

“We were midseason, which was pretty heartbreaking because we wished for more time with our seniors,” says Kelly Frumkin ’21, team captain and a double major in economics and psychology. “After COVID-19 shut everything down, most people traveled home. The one thing that we wanted to focus on was keeping our team united. We FaceTime, Zoom, text, and those of us in the Santa Clara area have gone on socially distant walks to spend quality time with each other.”

Although he wasn’t anticipating such an unusual senior year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Connor is impressed by “the phenomenal job my professors have done adapting to teaching remotely.” While being able to work in laboratories has posed challenges, he adds, “They really stepped up and were able to fit their lesson plans into this new way of teaching, and I’m really happy about that.” He does miss being near his classmates, his teachers, and people in general. Like all of us, he has relied on technology to maintain connections with his friends—especially Zoom.

For these gifted athletes, water polo is more than a sport and Santa Clara is more than just a team. “When I got here, I immediately had a family with my teammates,” Frumkin states. “I felt welcomed and a part of the Santa Clara community. Overall, that’s been a really important part of my experience here at Santa Clara.”

Over a two-year period, alumni, families, and friends of the Santa Clara University Women’s Water Polo program pooled their gifts to establish the Women’s Water Polo Endowment Fund. “I think they really believed in the program and wanted to make sure it was supported and always going to be here,” Head Coach Keith Wilbur says. Today, it helps him enhance the student-athlete experience for current and future water polo competitors through team travel, equipment, uniforms, and recruiting. Endowments, like the Women’s Water Polo Endowment Fund, ensure a steady stream of income to designated purposes for successive decades.

Despite their season being cut short and missing the opportunity to travel and compete, the team is optimistic and looking toward the future. “Outside of conference schools, we have also traveled to Harvard, Michigan, Indiana, Arizona State, and we have an annual trip to San Diego for the Triton Tournament. The Triton Tournament is a two-day tournament hosted by the University of California, San Diego with 16 teams from all over the U.S.,” says Wilbur. The group builds camaraderie, creating lifelong memories, while being able to explore these different parts of the country. “All of these trips are really special experiences that our players will remember for the rest of their lives,” he adds.

“Even though the Sullivan Aquatic Center is not open right now, most people have been able to find a pool to work out in so they can stay in some sort of shape,” remarks Frumkin. “One challenge that we face is the fact that our sport is very hard to play when we’re not at school. Not everyone has access to a pool.” In the face of these obstacles, they remain connected.

As Wilbur and his assistant coach, Claire Linney, plan for the 2021 season, they’re beginning to think about scouting prospective players. From a student perspective, recruitment trips are the defining moment when they decide to become a Bronco. “After coming on a recruit trip and getting to meet the team, see the campus, and learn more about the program, I came to that decision,” says Frumkin.

Next year, Wilbur will highlight the recently completed Schott Athletic Excellence Center to exceptional prospects. “I can bring a recruit on campus and walk into this brand new, amazing building, and that’s a selling point now,” he explains. This incredible facility will support student-athlete education and holistic development through state-of-the-art strength and conditioning, academic, and sports medicine services, allowing student- athletes to reach their full potential in the classroom and in the pool.

“Everyone wants to be back playing water polo together, so we’re all very motivated and excited for the opportunity,” says Frumkin. With the Athletic Excellence Center, a strong core of returning players, a new class of talented recruits, and funding from the endowment, next season looks promising.