The tweet of a whistle, the
occasional shout of instruction, and violent splashing of water. Through late October, these sounds are familiar to all Bellarmine students. Occupying the noisy pool is the Bellarmine water polo team. Famously and consistently successful, the practices never seem to cease; but for those on the water polo team, these practices and sounds begin long before the first day of school.
“Summer is pretty full for the water polo players. We train here four days a week in the mornings because the summer is our preseason and we have to get after it during those months. Along with the Bellarmine commitment, a lot of guys play club. This means many of them to spend the summer doing double days. The nice thing is, there’s no school; other than jobs and their club teams, the players can focus on water polo,” says Coach Mello, the assistant athletic director, and head varsity water polo coach.
Connor Long, a junior and 2nd-year varsity player experiences these long days. He shares his strategy for getting the most out of the summer practices, “I try to sleep as much as possible and eat healthily. Personally, I cannot eat early in the morning, so getting a little food before practice and then making sure I have something filling but healthy before the next. Also, I might take a quick nap after lunch if I have time, or maybe go to bed a little early if I feel sluggish.”
This constant practice pays dividends though. Known as one of the best teams on campus and around the WCAL, the water polo team did not disappoint last year, “Last season we finished 2nd in the league, unfortunately losing in the league championship. We were also co-CCS champs; our games were canceled due to the fires and air quality. This was really disappointing because we felt we had a very good chance at winning CCS, coming off a controlling win over Menlo in the Semis, and facing a beatable Sacred Heart Prep team. The fires were also a reason for the cancellation of our NORCAL games; this was frustrating too, going in ranked as the 4th seed. We just could not get the games in before Thanksgiving.”
The team’s reputation is nothing new to the players, in fact, Connor feeds from it, “The responsibility that comes with it. In the past, we have had very good water polo teams that have won championships, and personally I enjoy having the target on our back. I feel like it brings us closer together as a team knowing everyone is gunning for us.”
After a season cut short by weather, Connor has high aspirations for this years team, “Our team believes we have a solid shot at both a WCAL title and CCS title. If those are achieved, a NorCal top 4 finish is not out of reach either.”
Coach Mello shared, “The biggest goal for us is just getting better every day. When I look at our team and landscape of the CCS, I think there are a handful of teams capable of winning the Open Division. That tells me whatever team can improve the most throughout the season is going to be the most successful.”
This season offers new faces, in bigger roles. Connor is especially excited at his increased role, “Last season I was a sophomore on varsity, fighting for playing time at the beginning of the season and watching, learning and preparing for the next season towards the end. I would maybe give players a one or two-minute break in a game and sit the rest. Currently, I start as a 4-5 side driver, but my main position is as Center Defender. I play a good amount of games, getting my substitutions here and there, and it might go up if the team has foul trouble.”
New faces, same work ethic, this year’s water polo team knows what to expect; a target on their back, and hopefully no unorthodox cancellation of games.