What the Puck? Underwater Hockey Is All the Rage Among University of Florida Students

Meyer said that underwater hockey brings out that competitive aggression in her. But she also said she doesn't always tell her mom when she's going to play because her mom gets concerned that her daughter will be hurt.

The word hockey might make her nervous, or maybe the fact that the sport is usually co-ed.

And like most underwater hockey college teams, more than half of the members on the UF team are men. Meyer said that generally boys play with a little more force while girls try to finesse their way into scoring points.

Everyone on the team agrees that the mixing of genders adds a special spirit. For some, it's more motivation.

"I like playing against the boys," Raponi said. "It's pretty competitive, like that 'bring it on' kind of mentality."

Raponi showed up to her first practice in the fall semester without knowing anybody on the team. She was motivated by a joke she heard at the university's orientation program that UF has every sport available—even underwater hockey.

'Get Possession, Score Goal'

"I had to play because (I thought) something that outrageous—there has to be something," she said.

Like Kisz, Raponi is one of the few who'd never played water sports before, but she has played several team sports on land. She compares the mentality to soccer—get possession, maintain possession, score goal.

She's noticed one major difference in land sports and the underwater sport. Silence.

"Because it's underwater you can't talk," Raponi said. "So it's learning to develop those bonds without words."

The closeness and welcoming nature of the team, she said, definitely contribute to finding these bonds. Planning a strategy at the start line is the other part.

Puck Practice

"Sticks up."

The phrase booms over the water to the goal on the other side of the pool. Hanging with hands over the pool's edge, fins pressed up against the wall and sticks raised right above the surface of the water, we wait for the signal from the other side.

"Go."

This time, Kisz takes the strike, which means taking the first dive for possession of the puck waiting in the middle of the pool. He heads toward the goal. The puck is stolen away. Passed when a team member needs to surface for air. Protected by bodies. Stolen again. Kisz takes it in for a score.

Playing a four-on-four scrimmage rather than a full six-on-six game, a goal comes much quicker. Kisz, having scored the goal, drops the puck back off in the center of the pool on the way back to the starting side.

Goal Line Chats

During practices, the goal line after a score becomes the meeting place for a short break to talk about what happened during the last goal and what could be done better next time. During a tournament, the players wouldn't get this opportunity.

In a tournament, by the time the players reach the starting goal, they usually have to dive back out for the next, said Greg Mullersman, a player who started in 2001 with the Gainesville club team and came to UF when the team started in 2004.

Mullersman, a computer programmer at Shands at UF, has been playing club sports at the university since he started as a student 25 years ago. The long-time water polo player got hooked on the intensity under water.

'Whatever It Takes to Win'

"You play your brains out for a minute or two and then sub out," Mullersman said. "You just totally exhaust yourself trying to do whatever it takes to win."

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