"In a day two years in the making, the Keydet Women's Water Polo Team will board a van and head to West Virginia tomorrow morning. It is hard to put into words just how excited I am to have this day finally arrive. We have put our hearts and souls into recruiting, practicing and preparing for this moment," said Phelps, a 1997 alumna of Scripps College in Claremont, Calif.
Captaining the team will be senior Samantha Farr and junior college transfer and current freshman Molly Andoe. The pair of Californians brings a wealth of prior water polo experience, which has been a big part of the development of the few members of the team who are new to the sport.
The young Keydet team, which features seven freshmen, is made up of multi-sport cadet-athletes, most of who compete on the swimming and diving teams at the Institute. But the team's goalkeeper, Amanda Berrios, recently concluded her senior season with the VMI women's soccer team.
Andoe and Farr will help anchor the offensive side of the ball, joined by Chelsea Nugent and Caroline Pryor on the attack line. The squad's four utility players are Katheryne Austin, Heather Magill, Elise Reed and Tatiana Wabrek.
Backing the forward players will be central defenders Celine Lazzaro and Mackenzie Perkins, while Berrios will serve as the last line of defense for the Keydets.
"The girls have been working tirelessly to ensure we are prepared to play excellent team defense and controlled front-court offense. The energy we have put into conditioning is just now starting to pay off as I have seen our counter attack speed increase," noted Phelps. "I am looking forward to seeing how we can use that to our advantage tomorrow. I have confidence that we will jump in the pool tomorrow knowing that we are making history."
Saturday afternoon's meeting will be the first of two between the Keydets and Tigers this season. The two schools will meet in Lexington on Feb. 21 for VMI's first-ever home game, which will serve as the Keydets' only home match this season. That game will be played at the Institute's Clark King Pool, located in Cocke Hall.