Water Polo competes at state


Nayeon Ryu

Junior Alex Nozka dives for the ball after a fumble. Over the past eight years, the water polo team has advanced to the state semifinals six times. “We all work really hard to get where we are,” Nozka said. “We all push each other in practice and we all find pride in our work.”

With a 28-10 record, the varsity water polo team advanced to the championship game to face rivals St. Louis University High School (SLUH) after defeating Ladue May 12th in the semifinals.

“It is one of our goals from the beginning of the year to play in the Final Four,” head coach Charlie Cutelli said. “We think we’re that caliber of a team and it was a good goal to shoot for so we’re pretty successful when we give a 100 percent.

Instead of having one leading dominant player, the team made an effort to prevent their opponents from concentrating their defense on one player.

“Last year, we had a really strong team as well, but we had one really dominant player, [alumna] Mitch Griffin,” junior Alex Nozka said. “People were able to shut him down and we weren’t able to do much. but having such a balanced team, it’s hard for them to lock in on just one player to shut us down.”

The team focussed on improving their defensive skills by highlighting the importance of teamwork.

“We play a really good team defense,” Cutelli said. “We press hard so if you get beat, you’re [going to] have a teammate that’s [going to] be there to help you.”

Despite the strengths of the team, they fell to the three-peated champions SLUH by 15-4. Nozka speculates that the team came in with the mindset that they had no chance of winning.

“I feel like some people came in thinking, ‘there’s no way we’re going to win this game’ so they kind of gave up from the start because [SLUH is] a really good team,” Nozka said.

Along with have a negative mindset, the team was not able to score their first goal until the second quarter. 

“We play really heavily off of momentum,” Nozka said. “Like in our game against Ladue, we came out 3-0 against them in the first quarter. We kept coming because we had that drive, [but] against SLUH we couldn’t get anything, so we had nothing to build off of.”

Despite the season-ending defeat, freshman McKay Morgan embraced the presence of the team’s seniors as a way to improve his skill.

“They’re great leaders on the team,” Morgan said. “They really help us during practice to keep working hard and improve ourselves and they really help us work together as a team in games.”

The team anticipates year-round training to hone their skills ahead of next season.

“The key is kids have to play in all seasons so we have a lot of kids that play this summer, we [need to] join the boy’s swim team in the fall to get better at swimming, and then play in the winter,” Cutelli said. “It’s kind of a year-round adventure, so if the kids are willing to put in the time, the sky’s the limit.”

Cutteli believes there is not a need for adjustments going forward for the team to win the state championship.

“It’s kind of one of those ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” Cutteli said. “I’m happy with what we do and I hope we continue [to] play good help on defense and on offense, to continue to spread it out and not have one person steal the limelight.”