LASA water polo: drip or drown


The Jags regroup after a morning practice. photo courtesy of Bryce Yeazell

Alex Winter, Staff Writer

Arms flail, the ball speeds through the air and water splashes across the pool as the LBJ Water Polo teams ends their third pre-season practice.

The LBJ water polo team is gearing up for another season, with official practice commencing on February 18. This year, science teacher Allie Hill will serve as the team’s new coach and official club sponsor. The team decided to hold pre-season practices for the first time this year in order to help get players ready for the season, LASA senior and girls team captain Amber O’Rourke said.

“We’ve had like two, and it went pretty well,” O’Rourke said. “It got everybody excited for the upcoming season so goal achieved. In the past people who joined the team who joined had to go to the first week to see whether or not it was the right for for them so the purpose of these practices is so that people can just test out how they like it.”

The pre-season practices allow people who haven’t played for a while to refresh their skills, according to senior and water polo player Michael Wallace.

“We want the practices to improve our skills before season and make us more of a team,” Wallace said. “While there are players who practice all year, there are also some who don’t so these serve as a little bit of a refresher. It also allows the team to play together and help our chemistry.”

The practices were more of a casual event than official training, aiming to introduce more players to the sport after a long break. Only a few of the players actually play all year, according to Hill.

”We only had basically three in water sessions and it’s kind of weird because we run through Longhorn Aquatics out of season and we have few players who basically play year-round and they practice like up to four days a week,” Hill said. For the brand new players that have never played before, I’d say that they have like three to four in water sessions.”

According to Hill, the pre-season practices also help give new players a taste of the sport and practices are like, without any commitment required. The captains didn’t call the practices tryouts, to avoid intimidating newer prospects.

“We actually want to get more as water polo becomes more and more legitimate,” Hill said. “It’s looking to be one of the next UIL sports along with lacrosse, based on superintendent surveys and numbers. So yeah, we want to try and get more people to play, we want to try and get more people playing year-round and we want to have LASA play year-round as well.”

The team could soon put their skills to the test on a larger scale. Over the years water polo has become a popular candidate to be added to UIL competitions, and the percentage of superintendents who approve of the addition is rising rapidly, from 21 percent in 2012 to 43 percent approval in 2014. UIL deputy director Jamey Harrison said that UIL water polo is not a matter of “if”, but “when.” Hill said she hopes to have a well established team by the time water polo become an official UIL sport.

“Everybody is very motivated to get better and become better players,” O’Rourke said. “A lot of this comes from the juniors who have really stepped up and are becoming good leadership roles and are really helping the team focus in on our goals this year. Another big strength of ours is that we really like to have fun and we really enjoy the sport so we all get along very well”.

Both the boys and girls team have high goals this year. For the girls, the goal is getting to state. For the boys, it’s reaching state and winning a game. One of the advantages both teams have are returning players and a solid team culture according to Hill.

“We have year-round players, we have players that are experienced and have gone out to Junior Olympics in California so that helps,” said Hill. “I also think that we have a pretty solid culture meaning that the teams have been around a while, we’re not trying to recruit players at the last minute. As of today we have twenty players on both teams.”

One of the returning players on the boy’s team is Aldo Ordoñez, who travelled to California in order to play water polo at the Junior Olympics in 2017. According to O’Rourke, both teams are in a good place and are driven towards their goals.

“We’re in a good place mentally and when practice officially starts we’ll be able to more accurately gauge our strengths and weaknesses to prepare for competitions,” O’Rourke said. “I think that’s one of the greatest strength of our team. Both of the boys’ and girls’ teams are pretty committed this year and I really think that’s going to be driving force for us.”