Splashy start for girls water polo

Captain Ashlan Gee, caught a mid throw against Villanova High at last weekends Mistletoe Tournament on December 4, at Newbury Park High School. She made a goal that helped lead Royal to an overtime win. Our girls won the game in double overtime, with a score of 13-12.

Garrett Herzer (guest)

Captain Ashlan Gee, caught a mid throw against Villanova High at last weekend’s Mistletoe Tournament on December 4, at Newbury Park High School. She made a goal that helped lead Royal to an overtime win. Our girls won the game in double overtime, with a score of 13-12.

Halle Scholbrock, Reporter

For those who don’t know water polo or how it works, this article will break down the basics for you. A lot of people believe water polo is like volleyball, but in a pool with the same ball. However, this is not the case, because the ball is different, and many compare the game to soccer, or basketball, rather than volleyball. It can be seen compared to soccer in the way that it is a competitive sport, that is full-contact, and requires a team. Also, just like soccer, there is one goalie, and other “field” players (six members not including the goalie for water polo). Additionally, the whole objective of the two games is the same which is to score more points than the other team. On the other hand, it can also be compared to basketball, because they both have a 35-second shot clock, especially for a girl’s team. If the ball fails to be thrown for a shot within the time limit, it is then turned over to the other team. Another similarity between the two sports is that they are both divided into four quarters. The ball, as mentioned above, can be compared to a volleyball because of its looks, but the textures are different. Playing the sport with a volleyball creates an issue on how well the ball can be thrown in water due to its smooth texture. In order for players to be able to properly throw a ball it needs the grippable texture of waterproof nylon. Water polo can be an intense game to watch. 

As previously mentioned there are seven people per team in the pool at once, but there are typically about 13 players on a team. Our school, however, has one girls’ team with 15 people, and the captains are juniors Ashlan Gee and Amelie Burn. For those who aren’t aware, our school’s coach is Ignacio Saldain. He is also a soccer coach for the school and the IB Sports/Health Exercise SL teacher. Our school season will play 28 matches in total against various surrounding high schools. Just like any other sport, there are different positions and names for them. The field players are classified into three categories wing, point, and hole set, which is also known as the center. Additionally, the six “field” players are shaped into an umbrella-like arch, but one player is at the two-meter mark in the middle. This two-meter mark is actually found near the goal. Players close to the goal found on the left and right sides of the center are called wings. These people are allowed to change positions with each other while attempting to score a goal. The swimmer at the top of the umbrella arch is called the point and is also allowed to switch positions with the wings to shoot the ball. Going back to the player who’s two meters from the goal is called the hole set (center). Overall, all positions within the team play an important part in the success and winning. 

The sport may seem easy from land, but looks couldn’t be more deceiving since the floor is untouchable while standing, and athletes must tread water the whole time they are playing. The pool itself is typically very large, varying from 20 x 10 to 30 x 20 meters. Most pools are at least six feet deep, but if it is within reach of the player and a player is caught using it to their advantage, the ball must be turned over to the other team. Despite this rule, the goalie is the only player who’s allowed to use the bottom to their advantage. There’s actually a specialized technique in motion called the egg beater kick, known to water polo athletes. When asked about his favorite part of the sport, Saldain stated, “That it’s the most difficult sport in the world.” He preaches this due to the lack of attention and support it has considering its difficulty compared to other sports. Water polo is an active sport requiring high levels of cardiovascular endurance as well as core and leg strength. 

Does water polo have any restrictions? Yes, just like all other sports there are certain things the swimmers can and cannot do or have. The first restriction is that players can’t use goggles because they can create an unfair advantage. Also, there’s no need to see under the water because the entire game is played above the surface. This rule is in place to prevent potential injuries because the sport is a very physical and high-contact sport. Other aggressive actions like pushing and kicking, are not considered legal but are a common result of this competitiveness. Substitutions are not limited but must be made under certain circumstances to do so. Another simple thing that a lot of people may not know is restricted is touching the ball with both hands (unless you’re the goalkeeper). Also, holding the ball underwater and preventing play isn’t allowed. Petty things like splashing on purpose (usually in the face), attempting to sink an opponent, misconduct with a referee, and interfering with a free throw can all result in a foul. Luckily, this sport has a frame of what cannot be done to keep the gameplay fair, safe, and fun. 

Junior captain Ashlan Gee said this as to why she thought she was chosen as a captain, “I’ve been playing the sport the longest out of the team and a striking leader when games or practices get tough.” Next, she stated, “I’ve been playing varsity polo at Royal since my freshman year and club since I was 13.” Gee has a bright, “plan to play at the collegiate” and said, “I hope I can join a D1 program.” Finally, when asked about her contributions as a captain she brought up how, “Last season I was the leading scorer on the team and I hope to do the same this season.” Overall, she thinks, “I bring a good mix of competitiveness and fun to the team, so we can all have a good time while improving our game.” Lastly, water polo can be a challenging, but fun sport depending on your skills and endurance. We hope for more recognition for their hard work and dedication to our program as they win, win, win away the rest of the season.