Water polo team loses key player because of pandemic

This story was originally published in the fifth edition of The Lion’s Tale (March 26, 2021).

After beginning the season in February, the water polo team finds itself both suffering and benefitting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Junior Domenic Vizzari believes making it to states is a more attainable goal this year because of Covid-19. The boys’ and girls’ varsity teams currently have a combined record of 10-6.

“It’s [been] done before; it’s really easy this year because of Covid,” Vizzari said. “It’s definitely possible, and we’re really working towards it right now.

Junior water polo player and swimmer Eleanor Duffy agreed that the team has postseason aspirations.

“I really hope that we can win districts and just make regions,” Duffy said.

The boys’ team lost a key player because of the virus. Gabor Pesci, a junior exchange student from Hungary, was a leader for last year’s squad. He scored 102 points, notched 36 assists and 61 steals and reached an average of 4.1 goals per game. He had to return to his home country because of the pandemic late last year.

“I learned a lot of different moves [from him],” Duffy said. “So it’s different. It’s something to adjust to, to change. He was still on the fence about coming this year, but just with Covid, he had to stay home.” The team leaned on Pesci heavily last season, a fact that current players acknowledge.

“We kind of relied on the foreign exchange student’s use; it was really good,” Vizzari said. “But this year, you have to move the ball around more; it’s kind of a more team effort game.”

Many members of the water polo team also swim, which helps keep them fit, especially in the face of the extended offseason that followed the premature end to their previous campaign because of Covid-19. Some treat water polo as a game for the offseason, while others see swim as the secondary workout.

“Swimming is mainly just to condition for water polo; that is what I mainly use it for,” Vizzari said. “It’s mainly just swimming laps pretty much. And it’s overall just a great experience.”

The team has developed a tight, unified culture because of the players’ shared obstacles and enthusiasm for the game.

“We’re really supportive of each other,” Duffy said. “Whenever anybody goes in the pool, we’re always cheering for them. And if they haven’t gotten a goal yet this season, we’ll try to get them a goal so that they’ll feel more part of the team. And really, everybody is always pouncing on the opportunity to play since there’s so many of us, and we’re just all really engaged in the practice or the game.”

Vizzari concurred on the importance of maintaining good morale.

“You can’t win without a good team,” Vizzari said. “So pretty much, it’s really good to raise the spirits, and we all pretty much get along very well.”