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JV women’s water polo team returns to Dougherty Valley with a splash

“Alright!” Head Coach Brad Zenoni announced. “Here’s what we’re going to do.”

Players on the junior varsity womens water polo team lean against the pool wall, listening intently to Zenoni’s instructions for their warm-up set at practice. Since the womens water polo program was just renewed this year, most of these players are entirely new to the sport. Yet their incredible diligence and teamwork makes up for possible lack of experience.

The DVHS womens water polo program was dissolved back in 2019 due to a lack of interest. In the years since, women who tried out for water polo joined the mens team. However, increased student interest in water polo this year allowed Dougherty to bring the junior varsity program back, with sophomores Arshia Chhabra and Raya Ghosh as team co-captains.

The creation of a womens junior varsity team has been a significantly positive change for many players. Both returning and new players enjoy the advantages of having a womens team.

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“It was really rough and hard to fit in with this group of people that I didn’t know at all on the boys team,” Chhabra said. “With a girls team, we get time in the locker rooms together, we carpool together and we eat lunch together. So it’s just a lot easier for us to bond.”

But the players still have many obstacles to overcome ahead of them. Their main challenge thus far is the players’ lack of experience, caused by the team’s recent formation.

“I think learning the game is one of our biggest challenges as a team right now,” sophomore Charlotte Correia said. “During a game, I’m in the water and I’ll get a foul called on me, but I have no idea what’s happening. But that’s what’s fun about it. Sometimes, you just have to be in the water, make a mistake and then laugh it off to learn from it.”

Nevertheless, the team is constantly working on improving their skills, and players are quickly picking up the game.

“We’re all trying to learn the game and help each other out, so we have a really tight bond within our team,” Correia said.

In a region like the Bay Area, where water polo is widely popular, the team also faces the challenge of competing against teams that have been in existence for generations. Top teams like De La Salle, Monte Vista and Carondelet are Dougherty’s biggest competition.

“Starting a new program in this area was difficult, especially since we’re surrounded by really good competitors,” Zenoni said. “But we have great athletes on the team, and they’ve done a really good job rising to the occasion.”

Despite the difficulties that come with creating a new team, the players have worked on developing strengths outside of the water. Chhabra believes the team’s greatest strength is its sense of community.

“We have some really good swimmers, but we also have a truly supportive team environment,” Chhabra explained. “And because of this, one of our strengths in terms of gameplay is adaptability. We are able to adapt strategies very quickly while we’re playing the game.”

“We’re all trying to learn the game and help each other out, so we have a really tight bond within our team,” Correia said.

The team’s future this season seems to be bright, especially because of the strong support system the team has created. Zenoni, Chhabra and Correia are all looking forward to seeing the team grow and change together.

“As co-captain, my job is to help my players be the best that they can be,” Chhabra said. “It’s great to see how everyone’s characters and skills evolve throughout the season.”

Beyond this season, Zenoni and the team captains hope to expand the program and solidify their place in both DVHS and the local league. This year, they are focused mainly on teaching the basics of the game to players and creating a strong foundation for womens water polo at Dougherty Valley for years to come. While the athletic program only had enough participants to make a JV womens team this year, the Wildcats hope to establish a varsity team next year.

“The plan is to get these girls excited enough so that they come back next year and spread the news about water polo,” Zenoni said. “Either way, I’ll be back.”

This story was originally published on Wildcat Tribune on October 5, 2023.