By Nolan Kim ’22

Coming off a solid 2020 season, the Bellarmine Water Polo team looks poised to make a strong return with big expectations. Last year the Bellarmine Water Polo team had a solid overall record of 6-3 with a league record of 3-3 finishing them fifth in the West Catholic League standings.

During the past year, due to COVID-19, all athletics were pushed to the spring, which was a unique experience for the team. The past season was filled with COVID guidelines and restrictions on what teams Bells could assemble as well as rules as to who could participate. This year is different, and Bells are excited to get back into the pool without restrictions. Sophomore Phillip Long ’24 is looking forward to a season without COVID and is grateful for the opportunity to play again, saying “We have something to play for, and we’re grateful to play every day, we don’t know if COVID is going to come back.” Even with the virus playing out, the team is solely focused on the season in front of them.

The team has seen a significant loss of starters as many previous seniors have graduated. Long described the team with one word: “young.” This team is young indeed; the 17-man roster is composed of 5 seniors, 6 juniors, and 6 sophomores. Thomas Walker ’22 said, “Last year’s team was an older team but this year the underclassman is going to have to step up and take a bigger role.” The Bells have a promising future, but their focus is on the present. Walker has big expectations for this year, saying, “This year, we’ve been able to actually compete and place, each game has more meaning and more value.”

The team can be best described as crafty and quick. The players believe they can dominate in the pool with speed and agility. Walker sees the team as being on the smaller side and said that “counterattacks are key to the offense.” A counterattack in water polo is like a fast break in basketball with a quick transition of position and one team switching from offense to defense and the other team the other way. Long emphasized that “we’re a smaller team with a more movement-based offense,” explaining the reliance on the transitions.

For the upcoming season, the team looks forward to a demanding 26 game schedule filled with well-regarded opponents like Sacred Heart Prep and age-long rivals like Saint Francis. The most anticipated games on the schedule are, of course, the rivalry games against Saint Francis. The Bells beat them twice last year, but with altered rosters for both sides, things may play out differently this year. However, the Bellarmine team is excited for these upcoming games against Saint Francis. “They are our biggest rival,” said Walker. Another game to mark is the match against Valley Christian. The Bells lost a tough one to Valley last year, 13-7. This year the Bells are looking to get some revenge in a cross-league matchup. “It’s a big one,” said Phillip. Outside of WCAL the Bells are excited for games against Menlo School, who beat the Bells last year in a tight matchup, 12-9. Besides individual games, an important event is the Memorial Cup, which is hosted at Bellarmine. It’s a tournament that takes place during school hours so students can attend. There is a lot of pressure to perform at a tournament as many will be focused on the hosts.

The Bellarmine water polo team is young and talented and looks forward to a season without COVID hindering them. With a young roster, big expectations, and a grueling schedule, we’ll see how this Bellarmine team performs.