Estevan’s Taeghen Hack is surprised at how well her first season in collegiate water polo has gone.
Hack, who played water polo with the Estevan Sharks program, is a member of the Salem University Tigers women’s water polo team, and has enjoyed individual and team success this year.
First she was named to the all-conference freshman team for the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA).
Then Salem University won their first-ever WWPA championship on April 25, defeating the Mercyhurst University Lakers 8-4. The win helped the Tigers clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA national tournament.
It was a close, hard-fought game, closer than the score indicated.
“It was close pretty much the entire game until the last period, when we pulled ahead. It was just a really good game. I didn’t score in that game, but I played pretty strong defence, and I was able to give my captain the assist for our last goal we scored in that game,” said Hack.
Hack described the Tigers as “a stellar team.”
“After watching us train and grow as a team throughout the season, it really wasn’t much of a shock when we won,” Hack said. “Don’t get me wrong, the feeling was absolutely amazing when we won our championship, but I saw how we grew together as a team, and we worked really well all together.”
Coaching has played a big part in the Tigers success. Head coach Justin Kassab and assistant coach Kathryn Elgin pushed the team to win, and the coaches and trainers helped them to achieve their goals, especially after spending time in quarantines.
“Always being there for us physically but also mentally, he was one of the keys,” said Hack.
Out of all the teams in the country, the Tigers likely spent the most time training and had the most games, she said. Hack believes the Tigers have played 29 games.
Nationals will be May 14-16 at the University of California – Los Angeles.
“Back home, when I would qualify for nationals, it was a great feeling, but now knowing that I am competing with some of the best people who get picked to go to college, and now I’m going to the highest tournament you could play in college, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
The work isn’t finished yet, either. They still have about a week before they head out to California to play some of the top-ranked schools.
“I’m just really excited to see how the team does, and I know that we can do really well when we’re there.”
It’s an accomplishment just to make it to NCAAs. Hack hopes they can advance past the initial round of nationals, and it would be an accomplishment to play the top schools and win.
This marks the first time the Tigers have made it to nationals.
Hack was really nervous coming into the season. Her final season of water polo with Team Saskatchewan ended early, and she couldn’t train much for a long time before going to college. Hack believes she had about a week of training in the pool before arriving at Salem.
The Tigers have been put into quarantine multiple times since she arrived.
“I was able to work hard, get all my strength back, get my speed back and everything. I’m not nearly to where I was before, but I know that with hard work and determination, I can get there,” said Hack.
It’s a higher level of competition. The athletes are older than what she faced when she was in Saskatchewan, as those in their senior year are 21 or 22. And they’re much stronger, with excellent players throughout the lineups.
“The playing is a lot different, especially with the United States and Canada,” said Hack.
The officiating is also very different.
“Other than that, it’s the same game I’ve always played and I just played how I know it,” said Hack.
Hack has enjoyed her first year at Salem, saying she couldn’t imagine playing anywhere else. It’s become a home for her, and she’s already looking forward to next season, even though she still has nationals to play.