Seasonal reflection: an interview with Varsity’s Men’s Water Polo

by Will Li (’23) | November 19, 2021

Photo by SFHS parent

Emerging from a restrictive pandemic season earlier this spring, the Saint Francis Varsity Men’s Water Polo team concluded the fall season with an eighth place finish in the open division at the CCS championships. The Lancer recently interviewed the center, Andrew Blanco (’22), the utility, Nicholas Verstak (’23), and the driver, Brody Ghashghai (’22), on the team. They reported their results over the course of the season as well as the difficulties the team faced.

The Lancer: What is one element of water polo that was important for the team to emphasize this season?

Andrew Blanco: It would definitely be our consistency. We would show signs of being a very good team against harder opponents, which helped us win games we really should not have won. But we turned around and allowed teams with weaker skill sets to have closer games with us than we would have liked.

Brody Ghashghai: The biggest emphasis was our defense. We ran a whole new defense this year called a smart press where we forced other teams to shoot from farther away by staying off of their perimeter players and then crashing in on their center set players.

Nicholas Verstak: It’s definitely teamwork. It seemed like we threw to the same two or three players and expected them to do a lot. If you look at the best teams in the country, they never have just a couple of stars. Usually, the entire team is well-trained and cooperative instead of being heavily reliant on two or three players.

TL: What was a significant challenge the you experienced during this season?

AB: A challenge was our team experience. Our sophomores hadn’t played a full varsity season under their belt, meaning there was still a lot of learning needed from a game IQ standpoint. It was definitely hard, as this was also my first full varsity season, and I was obviously still working on my game too.

BG: The biggest challenge was staying healthy. We had a number of guys get injured and sick. With a team, it’s hard to play even without one member. So, when you have players like Nicholas Verstak who are down for one game, you really feel the impact while other players like Drew Carroll (’22) have to step up and take their role. 

NV: The biggest difficulty was keeping up on defense. We lacked fundamentals coming into the season, and we were never really able to focus on conditioning. Our physical shape was quite a bit behind others who didn’t need to go through that learning stage. I think we caught up as well as we could, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

TL: What would you say was your best game?

AB: Personally, my best game was our match against Valhalla High School in a San Diego tournament on September 25. I ended with four goals and threw the game-winning shot with 0.6 seconds left. As a team, it would be our game against Buchanan High School at the Saint Francis Invitational on September 18. This game was really important to us as we had come off an overtime loss to Miramonte High School in the semifinals. We started down six to one, making horrible mistakes, but came back and won twelve to ten.

BG: Our best game was definitely Senior Night on October 13. It was the last home game of the regular season before the WCAL championships, and it was the first time we played Valley Christian High School. The game was important for us since we needed this win in order to get our goal of third in WCALs. Thus, we took this game pretty seriously and won eight to seven. That was probably the most fun night of water polo in my life because we celebrated with a huge crowd. Football kids showed up, the whole girls’ water polo team was there, and a lot of parents were there with posters. Also, I don’t mean to brag, but I shot the game-winning shot when there was a minute left. It was really special to score the winning goal and see everyone go crazy.

NV: I’d say the one against Miramonte High School on September 18, not for me individually but for the team. We had two overtimes and lost by one. It was a hard-fought game, as Miramonte is a great team. We were making the right passes and shots and were shutting them down on defense. It was unfortunate that we lost, but it was definitely our best game.

Categories: Sports

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