Four years ago, Aelish ‘15 stepped out onto the cold and bare pool deck with knots and butterflies in her stomach nervously awaiting her first Water Polo game. Although it was her first season, and she needed a lot more hardy practice, she absolutely loved the thrill of treading water in the pool, passing the ball to her teammates, and scoring a goal. Since 8th grade, she has made Water Polo a big commitment in her life playing club and traveling to the Junior Olympics this past summer. No longer stands the nerve wracking Water Polo novice, but now stands the confident and relaxed Water Polo co-captain.
Coming off their best season yet last winter, the School’s Varsity Water Polo Team is continuing to build and improve this season. the team has rebounded with astounding energy because of the closeness of the team despite the facts that many Senior impact players graduated from the program last year and that the team has moved up to CIF Division 2 this year.
Coaches and players alike have expressed that the warm ties between teammates is what makes the team one-of-a-kind.
“I think [the closeness of the team] is an integral part of our program. I think that we’re still a relatively young program compared to the other sports on campus, and a big part of our success, and I think what draws girls to our team, is that it is a very close knit, family type atmosphere. It’s a sisterhood, if you will,” Varsity Head Coach Larry Zubrin commented.
Donohue also commented that the demands and rigorousness of the sport helps bring the team together.
“I think we definitely have a very close team also because water polo is such a difficult sport in general, physically and mentally. And I think it’s really important to trust your teammates and have a good bond. The sport is just really hard, but you just need people to be there for you especially in the game,” Aelish said.
Not only is the team ready for the challenge of having lost four girls and now facing harder competition , but the team also has stepped up its defense. The girls have been practicing going for a hard press, which means the players try to make sure the opponents cannot pass the ball anywhere. In addition, the girls have begun to establish a strong frontcourt defense. In their first non-league game against Culver City High School, they only allowed two goals in the front court, which is the part of the field where the offense tries to score. Although the game ended in a 10-1 loss, this was a highlight of the game. The implementation of these new strategies have been crucial to the team’s success so far.
Next on the team’s checklist is to improve its offensive tactics. Some of their current strategies include rushing, being more responsive and utilizing better ball control. Co-captain Charlotte Notaras ‘15 noted that this is definitely an area for improvement because the team only scored one goal in their first game. However, since their first game, as of Dec. 13, 2014, they have scored an average of 6.6 goals in non-league play. In fact, at the Bonita High School Tournament on Dec. 6, 2014, Marlborough Water Polo racked up a total of 13 goals to beat Bonita High School, 13-3.
Additionally, the Varsity Water Polo Team has short-term goals of hoping to improve in their league.
Zubrin noted that, as a season-goal, he hopes to see the team make a break for the playoffs. Last season, the team was one game away from making CIF Division 6 playoffs. The top four seeds from each league enter their division playoffs. Last year, Marlborough was in CIF Division 6 and the Sunshine league; however, the team has moved up to the more competitive CIF Division 2 and Mission League this year.
“Ideally, we’ll finish in the top four in league. It’ll be a stretch to pull that off, but it’s not impossible. [And] if we finish in the top four, we’ll qualify for CIF. That’s something the program hasn’t done [yet],” Zubrin said.
As for long-term goals, because water polo is still a relatively new sport to Marlborough Athletics, the team hopes to increase the prominence of the program on campus and in their new league.
“[We want] to build up the program. It’s all about experience, and most teams are more experienced than we are, which makes it hard to compete at times. But, the more games we play and the more real practices we run, the stronger the program will be in the long run,” Julia ’16 stated.
The team sees each season as a vital component and stepping stone to improving the team’s rapport throughout the Marlborough community and the Mission League. Additionally, “Every [game and practice] is a build toward the end of the season,” Zubrin said.