Water polo team blows competition out of the water

The team has bested every school it has gone up against this season.

Water+polo+team+members+come+in+for+a+team+huddle+as+they+celebrate+their+victory+against+the+Kennedy+Cougars.

THE MIRROR | NICOLE TOVAR

Water polo team members come in for a team huddle as they celebrate their victory against the Kennedy Cougars.

 

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Nov. 2022 print edition of The Mirror. This is an uncut version. 

Arman Mkrtumyan’s alarm on his iPhone goes off at 4:30 every morning.

He jumps out of bed and heads to the kitchen to grab some cereal for breakfast. 

He rushes into the bathroom to wash his face and brush his teeth. Then he heads back to his bedroom, changes into his swim trunks and pulls on shorts and a t-shirt. He grabs his backpack and he’s off to Panorama High School for water polo practice by 6 a.m. 

After practicing at Panorama for an hour and 30 minutes, the players shower, get ready for school and board the bus to arrive back at school and be in their classrooms before the bell for first period rings out. 

This is the routine he follows every school day during water polo season. The school’s team practices every morning at Panorama High, the nearest school that has an aquatics facility.

All the early morning sacrifice and training has paid off, as this year’s boys water polo team is undefeated, leading first in the Valley Mission League with a rank of 6-1.

The team has bested every school it has gone up against this season, including Panorama, Kennedy, North Valley Marine Institute (NVMI) and  Granada Hills Charter (GHC).

Although a majority of the team’s games last season were canceled due to covid-19, the players were able to accomplish their goal of making it to play-offs. The team ultimately lost the playoffs to GHC with a score of 16 to 7.

I thought we would just be swimming but it’s definitely not just swimming around. In the beginning, it was definitely something new for me. I went to practice, waking up at 4:30 in the morning. I was not even in the right swimsuit, I was wearing swim trunks and a swim shirt.”

— Viet Thanh

Prior to joining the team, many water polo players didn’t know how hard they were going to have to work. In the beginning, junior and Team Captain Viet Thanh was entirely unprepared for the dedication and discipline this sport demands.

“I thought we would just be swimming but it’s definitely not just swimming around,” he said. “In the beginning, it was definitely something new for me. I went to practice, waking up at 4:30 in the morning. I was not even in the right swimsuit, I was wearing swim trunks and a swim shirt.”

While water polo is considered to be one of the hardest sports, not many people are aware of the sport’s gameplay, rules and objectives. The team wants to bring the water polo team into the spotlight, starting by teaching people how to play the sport.

The game takes place over four eight minute periods. To begin playing, two teams consisting of six field players and one goalkeeper each get in the pool. Their goal is to get the ball into the other team’s net, which is positioned on the other end of the pool. As the game starts, both teams line up on opposite sides of the pool as the ball is placed in the center. The players must all then swim to the ball, a segment that is called the swim-off.

A player is only allowed past the two meter line if they have possession of the ball. The five meter line serves as an area where penalty fouls are awarded when a player commits any kind of a foul inside the line. Whenever a player has the ball, they must attempt to shoot within 30 seconds. After this limited time frame, the ball is turned over to the other team. With exception to the goalkeeper, players are not allowed to push the ball with water or touch the ball with both hands.

Unlike other sports at our school that have designated areas for practice, such as a football field or tennis court, the school’s boys’ water polo team does not have access to a pool on campus in which they can practice. Team Captain Edgar Lalafarian finds the fact that they have to practice at another school unfair. He dislikes the team’s ongoing dependency on Panorama’s pool.

“If the school wants to make us feel included, they should give us a pool,” he said. 

Maintaining a practice routine such as theirs can be challenging, but the players persistently remain determined to balance their school work, personal life and water polo. 

“It takes a lot of discipline to be in water polo,” Thanh said. “If you aren’t disciplined, then you won’t be waking up this early every single day.”

Although the players all have different levels of experience, having found common ground with their passion for the sport, they have come together to form a strong team and work hard everyday to improve their team as a whole. 

“Any kid that is gonna get up at six in the morning to come to practice, they’re dedicated,” Coach George Davancens said. “It’s because they love the sport, and they love each other, too.” 

The players’ rigorous training and effective communication during games have resulted in back-to-back victories for the team.

“I feel like it’s been a very good season so far,” Mkrtumyan said. “I’ve had a lot of fun this year, and I think a lot of the other people have too.”

With the advantage of knowing their opponents strategies from previous games, Thanh predicts that the team has a pretty clear path to winning future matches.

“We are going up against teams we have already gone up against before, so I hope we go undefeated.”