Varsity Water Polo wins Invitational against Fieldston

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Nikita Pande , Staff Writer

After beating every team in the Ivy Preparatory League, Varsity Water Polo took home the trophy at the Horace Mann Invitational on October 28.

The Invitational solidifies the winner of the Ivy League between the different schools in the league and took place on October 26 and 28. On the first day, the Lions, with the best record, played against the team with the worst record, Riverdale; Fieldston and Trinity played each other as well. On the second day, the Lions competed against Fieldston for first place, while Trinity and Riverdale played for third.

The team’s final game against Fieldston was a nailbiter compared to their previous matches, Elise Kang (11) said. Usually, the Lions start off strong and gain an early lead, which allows them to relax for the rest of the game. The Fieldston game was close after the first quarter, possibly because Lions had let their guard down after a successful season, Kang said.

That said, the team didn’t stay behind for long. They regained their lead in the second quarter and widened the gap during the third and fourth, Kang said. “There was no buzzer beater or winning shot. We were always a few steps ahead.” 

The Lions won 21-12 against Fieldston — a comfortable margin they frequently earned in league games, Varsity Water Polo Coach Michael Duffy said. “I can’t say it stands out.” Leading his squad, Captain Max Chasin (12) scored 13 goals against Fieldston and Noah Castillo (10) contributed several goals as well.

Teams entered the Invitational with a heightened drive to win since it was their final chance to clinch the league title, team member Camila Florencio (11) said. “The other teams, since they were already losing, were willing to do anything in order to get back on top,” she said. “Even though we secured our spot at the top, we still wanted to make sure that we held it down and that we did not get too sloppy.”

The win was especially gratifying because it was a culmination of the team’s progress, Duffy said. One specific area of improvement was the team’s defense; they transitioned from one player defending each opponent to double-teaming the players on the other team, he said. Players also stepped out of their comfort zone as well: “at the beginning of the year, we had people who weren’t too comfortable taking shots, and I saw that confidence grow.” 

The Lions’ excitement reached its highest point in their last few games, team member Rain Li (10) said. As the season progressed and the team’s winning streak increased, more people attended the games — there was a visibly larger crowd at the Invitational than at their first game of the season, which led to a better match. “Hearing the fans cheer after every goal, or trying to support us no matter if we’re on offense or defense, brings out the energy,” Li said.

In addition to the exhilaration of capping off a well-played season, the Invitational held emotional significance because it was the seniors’ last game, Florencio said. 

There was a sense of camaraderie and cooperation within the team, mainly stemming from the seniors’ efforts to maintain a positive environment, Duffy said. Their encouragement helped the team perform better. They played without fear of messing up, so if they did happen to make a wrong move, they went into it confidently, he said. “They made aggressive mistakes rather than passive mistakes.” 

Duffy made sure to include every player in each game, Li said. Even though it was Li’s first year on the Varsity team, he had the opportunity to play and score goals in every match. “Coach Duffy did a really good job trying to give everyone adequate playing time and giving us the chance to show our skills.”

Looking back over his final season, Max Chasin (12) feels upset that he will never play for the school again, but appreciates the team for an incredible season. “The close-knit bond of the team was unlike any experience on an HM team I’ve ever had,” Chasin said. “I’m going to miss the coaches and my teammates, and I look forward to coming back and watching them win in the coming years.”