Water Polo led by Junior Olympians

Jake LaRocca contests a loose ball in an 11-10 win over Gilman, August 30, 2019 – Index Staff

In July of 2019, USA Water Polo sponsored the National Junior Olympics Tournament, which was held in Orange County, California. Although a national tournament, a majority of teams participating come from California, where the highest level of water polo is played in the United States.

     Despite the lack of teams on the East Coast, Haverford Coach Kevin Van Such and multiple upper school students booked flights to compete in the tournament. The students involved were Matej Sekulic, David Gobora, Koby Degendhardt, Ryan LaRocca, Jake LaRocca, Ty Godorecci, and Bram Schork. 

     The Fords made up a good percentage of Maverick Water Polo, a Philadelphia-based team consisting of mostly Inter-Ac players. With the seven Fords on the Mavericks, Coach Van Such got a glimpse of how the talented 2019 roster could play together. 

     To compete in the national tournament, teams must first qualify at the regional level. At the beginning of June, Maverick Water Polo finished fourth in the Northeast Junior Olympic qualifying tournament, which secured their participation in the July event.

“Playing at a high level brings out the best in yourself, your teammates, and allows you to improve not only on a personal level but also as a team.”

Koby Degenhardt ’20

     Hence the Fords went on to face new competition in California in July. Even with the tough competition that comes with playing at JO’s, the Fords and the rest of the Mavericks overcame that competition, going 5-3. 5-3 is an impressive record out in California.

     “Playing at a high level brings out the best in yourself, your teammates, and allows you to improve not only on a personal level but also as a team,” Sixth Former Koby Degenhardt said.

     With the chance to play with their future teammates, each Ford had a chance to learn more about one another for the 2019 season. Bram Schork had the ability to learn the playing-style of his teammates for the fall season. 

      “While playing at such a high level of the game, all of the players learned to use their game theory skills in a real and stressful situation. The effect of working as a cohesive unit during the tournament will aid in our development during the high school season,” Schork said. “The ability to know your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, preferences, and plays gives us an advantage by taking away one of the biggest struggles in the game: communication.”

     Having finished 8-0 in league competition last year, Fords Water Polo plans to set higher expectations for the 2019 season. In addition to repeating as Inter-Ac champions, the Fords’ plan is to do some real damage at their tournaments, like “Beast of the East” and Easterns. 

    The Fords will compete against the top teams on the East Coast, playing against players who also competed at the Junior Olympics in July.

Author: Jake LaRocca '22

Sports editor Jake LaRocca has written for The Index since 2018. His articles "Water Polo led by junior Olympians" earned a Silver Key from the 2020 Philadelphia-Area Scholastic Writing competition.