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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Meet A&M water polo’s Shaye Smith

Shaye+Smith%26%23160%3Bis+a+senior+at+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+and+also+a+member+of+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+womens+water+polo+team
Photo by Courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics

Shaye Smith is a senior at Texas A&M and also a member of Texas A&M’s women’s water polo team

Texas A&M Women’s water polo is heading to Nationals May 6-8 after defeating the University of Texas 10-3 at the Conference Championship in April.

The Aggies are the No. 10 ranked collegiate club team in the nation and 8-0 for the season. The 2022 Women’s National Collegiate Club Championship will be at the Huntsville Aquatics Center in Huntsville, Ala., starting Friday. When the Aggies face MIT on May 6 at 2:50 p.m., environmental management senior Shaye Smith, MVP of the Conference Championship game against UT, said she hopes to bring back a national title for the Aggie women.

The April 10 game against UT extended the team’s undefeated streak, and Smith said everyone on the team played well. Smith is the team’s social officer and field player.

“We had a lot of spirit going into it,” Smith said. “We had our sights set on something bigger; we want to take the national championship home, and winning the Conference Championship was the steppingstone for that.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 seasons. In 2019, the team could not attend the championship because the tournament was held during finals. Club sports are not granted university approved absences under Student Rule 7. These absences have made 2022 even more important to the team.

“We are pretty excited,” sports management senior Julia Klein said. “This is the first time any of us have been able to go [to nationals].” 

Klein is the Club Water Polo president and goalkeeper.

Head coach Tyler Thames, a computer science senior, said the team is up to the challenge.

“I think the team will be extremely competitive at nationals, and we hope to become national champions,” Thames, the former president of the A&M Men’s Club Water Polo team, said. “Inside the pool, Shaye is one of the most versatile players on the team, and I know I can trust her to take any role in the game.”

Klein said Smith is a threat in the pool and a force to be reckoned with, but has also made it her mission to get the players to buy into the program and bond as teammates.

“Outside of the pool, Smith has put in more work than anyone when it comes to building team spirit and promoting the team,” Thames said.

Smith’s social officer duties include communicating with the public and other teams, organizing social events and publishing team activities and accomplishments. Teammates said she has gone above and beyond.

“This is my second year doing it, and my goal coming into it was to elevate my team’s presence in the public and elevate our team’s spirit among each other,” Smith said.

Smith has created custom team graphics for the natatorium scoreboard, live streams, Instagram and team website. Under her leadership, the team’s Instagram has gone from fewer than 300 to almost 700 followers in the last two years.

“I started working on all the graphics and media last year but granted we didn’t have much of a season last year, so I didn’t get to use a lot of it,” Smith said. “So I had a lot in the vault.”

Smith said she has a business minor that includes marketing classes that have given her background in public relations.

“It is a hobby and a passion of mine,” Smith said. “Learning how to do all of the stuff on the computer is all self-taught.”

All the effort has helped the team in many different ways, Klein said.  

“It’s definitely really cool,” Klein said. “It’s nice to be able to go back and watch all the games that have been recorded and see all the graphics. I’ve had friends and family who couldn’t make it to a tournament, so we just send them the link, and they still get to watch.”

Smith put together a media day for team photos with the help of teammate and fundraising officer Aubrey Mai, field player and kinesiology junior. They used the images to create a team roster with detailed athlete profiles, announcements and follow-up media. They also collaborated to coordinate sponsorships for the team.

“I made a lot of the communications for it and stationary, but [Mai] was the one putting in the legwork, emailing those sponsors, and getting that money in,” Smith said. “We worked together on that, and it has been a really good return for us.”

A&M Club Sports are athlete-funded with limited university subsidization. Sponsorships currently allow the team to compete in more tournaments, cover travel costs and provide additional uniforms and equipment.

“The more money we get over time, the closer we will get to doing scholarships for players in the future,” Smith said. “Fundraising will be a big focus for our team over the next era. We want to reach about $25,000 set aside before we can do scholarships. We want to draw the best players to A&M.”

With Texas high schools officially making water polo a UIL sport this year, Texas colleges are expected to pursue water polo as an NCAA sport in the near future.

“We want to be in the early front of it and get the best players to A&M,” Smith said.

The championship games will be live-streamed on the CWPA website:https://portal.stretchinternet.com/cwpa/

Follow the Texas A&M Women’s water polo team on Instagram @aggiewwp or visit 
https://aggiewwp.wixsite.com/aggiewwp/copy-of-about.      

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