All Worth it

Girls Water Polo Prepares for Districts

Watching+the+eyes+of+the+opposing+player%2C+sophomore+Avery+Nelson+carefully++waits+for+her+to+decide+the+play.+The+girl%E2%80%99s+water+polo+team+were+seated+second+in+their+district+at+the+beginning+of+their+season.+%E2%80%9C%5BBeing+a+goalie%5D+is+very+stressful%2C%E2%80%9D+Nelson+said.+%E2%80%9C%5BIt%5D+feels+like+all+the+pressure+is+on+you+because+youre+the+last+line+of+defense%2C+when+the+offensive+opponents+are+coming+at+you%2C+you+always+have+to+be+on+your+guard.+And+Its+very+tough+mentally+because+you+always+beat+yourself+up.%E2%80%9D

Photo courtesy of Avery Nelson

Watching the eyes of the opposing player, sophomore Avery Nelson carefully waits for her to decide the play. The girl’s water polo team were seated second in their district at the beginning of their season. “[Being a goalie] is very stressful,” Nelson said. “[It] feels like all the pressure is on you because you’re the last line of defense, when the offensive opponents are coming at you, you always have to be on your guard. And It’s very tough mentally because you always beat yourself up.”

Kassidy Wilkinson, Reporter

Clinging to the offensive player in front of her, senior Audrey Truman glances at the ball on the other side of the pool. Her right hand tightly grips her opponent’s wrist, while her left hand fends off her enemy as they try to hold her underwater. At the goal, another player, sophomore Avery Nelson moves her legs in circles beneath her until her lower body begins to break the surface of the water. Through the cloudy vision of her chlorine-filled eyes, she watches as an opposing player catches the ball perfectly in one hand and throws it as hard as she can in her direction. Nelson lunges left catching the ball just before it glides into the goal. The Cedar Park team quickly gets back on offense before the shot 30 second shot clock runs out.

Being a contact-heavy sport, it’s not uncommon to finish a water polo game and find one to two bruises or nail marks from the opposing team. The unspoken rule in the sport is if the referee doesn’t see it, you can do it. In a typical game, players will dig their nails into each other, wrap their legs around their opponent’s waist, and hold the offensive player they are defending under the water to keep them from scoring a goal. In addition to that, players aren’t allowed to touch the bottom of the pool at any time during the game and they are only allowed to catch the ball with one hand.

“Last year was rough,” senior right flat Sadie White said. “I feel like we played really well but we didn’t have many games to play. This year [I hope] we play a lot of games and get a lot of competitions and play well and have fun.”

Since they stepped out of the water at regionals last year, a lot has changed for the girl’s water polo team, according to White. For the first time since the “Lone Star State” established the University of Interscholastic League (UIL) in 1913, water polo is finally recognized as an official high school sport in Texas.

“I’m excited, I’m glad it’s UIL,” White said. “It’s been a rumor for forever now. I feel like [water polo] is more strict, but we actually learn more, and we have actual games this year. [There is] definitely more pressure because it’s for the district. [And] you have to go through so many people to get a game. You can’t just scrimmage another team and call it a day.”

The small team of 10 athletes are actively recruiting people to join them for this season and for the seasons to come. They have been turned down by many potential players due to the fear of swimming and the large amount of treading water you need to do in a game.

“It’s like soccer, but in the water,” sophomore Kaydence Wilkinson said. “It’s fun because although the game is tiring, even just getting one goal or helping your team in one moment, it makes it all worth it. The victory and satisfaction of winning as a team is why I keep playing it even though at times it’s tough.”

With seven athletes on the playing field and one ball, water polo players must work as a team to score a point. Passing the ball back and forth to keep it away from the determined hands of the defense, all of the girls must be able to break free from the other team’s grip on them to help out their other teammates.

“Water polo requires strategy,” Head Coach Les Greenwood said. “And it requires physical fitness, but it also requires being able to integrate with the team. Almost along the lines of muscle memory so you can anticipate what your teammates will do. If you really want to be a proficient water polo player you have to study the game and study how people move. You have to be physically tough because you’re not standing on dry land, [but] constantly in motion.”

Any athletes interested in playing water polo can check out the swim website or reach out to Coach Greenwood at [email protected]