Varsity Water Polo team ends Season with a splash: Ivy League Champions


Talia Winiarsky , Staff Writer

Navigating the worlds above and below water while also managing the chaos of travelling between the two is one of the many skills that the Varsity Water Polo team uses, Nina Gaither (11) said. Practicing these skills has benefited the team, as they are the Ivy Preparatory School League (IPSL) champion. Water Polo is the only school team out of six that has won their league this season.

Prior to this year, water polo teams were not a part of the IPSL. This year, however, there are four teams that are a part of the league: Horace Mann, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Riverdale Country School, and Trinity. With five wins and one loss to Trinity, Horace Mann came in first place.

In order for a sport to compete in the IPSL, four out of eight schools in the league must have a team, Coach Michael Duffy said. When Riverdale started their team last year, the teams proposed that the league be official this season.

The implementation of water polo into the IPSL is a reflection of the larger trend of the rise of high school water polo. According to The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), from 2008-2009, boys’ participation in water polo increased 8.8%, and girls’ participation increased 18.0%.

Donny Howard (12), Co-captain of the team, noticed an increase in Water Polo participation throughout his career at the school. “As I look back to the middle school team, there’s a lot of people compared to what there used to be. This year was the first year I’ve ever experienced where we wondered if there would be cuts.”

The recent increase of appeal in the team could be attributed to the new pool and facilities, and the Water Polo tournaments that the school hosts thrills the players and functions as an advertisement for spectators of the team, Howard said. In future years, the plaque hanging to commemorate of the team’s victory will inspire students to join.

The school has had a Varsity Water Polo team since 1977. “Future Water Polo teams may claim a better record, but without a doubt, no other team will ever know the feelings of those photographed below [the team], for they were pioneers” the captains wrote in the 1977 Mannikin. 42 years later, the players this season are also pioneers. While other teams at the school have been a part of the IPSL for many decades, this season’s team has set a precedent for future water polo teams as the team continues to participate in the IPSL.

The league has given the team a championship to strive for, Gaither said. “There’s been a lot more fun pressure to win. It’s made the games more exciting and everyone’s more cohesive because there’s a definitive goal.”

Winning the Homecoming game against Fieldston 16-10 gave the team the title of IPSL champion, Ari Salsberg (11) said. “One of my favorite moments of the game [Homecoming] was watching Max Chasin (9), who’s a freshman. He had some crazy lob shot that was placed perfectly.”

While some other schools have to rely on their best players in games, the school does not have to do that, Salsberg said. “Strong performances by our starting lineup against weaker teams allows for our bench and backups to get more playing time.”

The team faces a challenge when they play teams that aren’t part of the IPSL, such as St. Peter’s Preparatory School and Pingry, which are in New Jersey, and Staples High School in Connecticut, Salsberg said. The team has lost once to Pingry, twice to Staples High School, but beat St. Peter’s Prep in a close game of 11-10.

Duffy is the main factor that the team was so successful this year, Howard said. They focused on improving the team as a whole, rather than focusing on the best players. “If I’m not available one day to be at a game, or Taimur, the other captain, isn’t, we are still going to play just as aggressively and just as strong.”

Additionally, a large portion of the team trains during the off-season to come back the next season with a higher level of skill, Howard said. He spends his free time in the spring honing his skills in the pool with his teammates, and he and others attended water polo camps over the summer. “The effort that we put into our team is unparalleled,” he said.

The starting roster usually includes some of the team’s best players, including Howard, who plays starting goalie, Walker McCarthy (10), and Max Chasin, Salsberg said.

“What I like about Donny is that he knows he’s really good, and everyone else knows he’s really good, and he’s more than willing to talk to you about what you’re doing and how you should improve,” Gaither said.

Taimur Moolji (12) is Co-Captain with Howard, and he leads the team both in and out of the pool, and contributed to the team’s success with his leadership skills, McCarthy said. “Taimur played a really big part in us getting to know each other better, and as a result, we were more comfortable with each other during games and we were able to work together as a team.”

In the coming weeks, the team will focus on preparing the underclassmen for next season, Salsberg said. “We’ll try to fill a lot of the holes that the seniors that are leaving, such as Donny, who’s crucial to the team.”

The team continues to grow closer together due to the time they have spent playing and the seniors’s efforts to increase teamwork, McCarthy said. “We’re all supportive of each other, whether we are winning or losing.”