Seabury Hall’s girls water polo team burns a path in the pool

Seniors+Maya+Okamura%2C+Teak+McAfee%2C+and+Emily+Ratay+helped+ensure+that+Seabury+Hall%27s+girls+water+polo+team+was+a+force+to+be+reckoned+with+this+season+in+the+MIL.

Jessica Brown

Seniors Maya Okamura, Teak McAfee, and Emily Ratay helped ensure that Seabury Hall's girls water polo team was a force to be reckoned with this season in the MIL.

Mapu Andrade, Staff Writer

Always prim, proper, and collected, the girls of Seabury Hall’s water polo team were the poster girls for preppy poise on campus. While this may have been the case from 7:45 AM to 3:30 PM, once the clock hit 3:45 PM, these girls entered a world of aggression, competitiveness, sweat, and brutality.

Ten years ago the idea of creating a girls water polo team at Seabury Hall would have been a fantasy. Fast-forward to three years ago and the idea began as a spark, but still the sport lacked both players and supporters. However, in 2014, Ryan Walsh, an English teacher in Seabury Hall’s middle school, stepped forward and gave girls water polo the chance to begin.

“This is the second year I have coached this sport at Seabury Hall, but I coached for about seven years in California before I moved to Maui. I was interested in getting a team started since I moved here six years ago, but I finally felt like I could commit to it last year,” said Coach Walsh.

So how does a newly formed group of girls go from never picking up a polo ball to beating some of the most intimidating high schools, like Kamehameha?

“The main secret weapon is the chemistry that we have as a group. That is a testament to the great group of girls we have. I cannot teach or coach that. It comes from them being awesome human beings and trying to allow everyone to be part of the group,” said Walsh.

Water polo is a physically demanding sport, and the girls must have both mental and physical endurance to compete. Walsh stated, “Water polo is similar to any net sport like soccer, basketball, or hockey. It has similar offense and defense strategy as those sports, but is arguably more physical. There are six field players and a goalie. We play four seven-minute quarters, and the objective is to score more goals than your opponent. Like most sports, water polo is very physically demanding. A player needs to be dedicated to the sport in order to improve. Ultimately, the main difference is the water factor, which provides an added degree of difficulty to trying to score goals.”

This season, the girls have had multiple games, and from these games, they felt the difference that experience brings to the table. As senior Maya Okamura admitted, her first game of water polo was a wake-up call in terms of how aggressively demanding this sport is: “My very first game playing water polo this girl just put her arms on me and ducked me under water, and kept doing it. I wanted to cry. She was drowning me on purpose.”

However, like anything in life, confidence can come from the most unexpected experiences. “I always tell the girls to have confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself and your team, even if you’re getting punched you have to punch back because sometimes two wrongs equal a right in the game of water polo,” said Okamura.

What makes this team so unique is the amount of faith and support the girls and coach instill into the younger players. When Coach Walsh was asked about the leaders that stand out among the rest, he could not help but applaud every girl on his team.

“Obviously, two of our seniors, Maya Okamura and Teak McAfee set a tone, but there are about six freshmen who have been outstanding additions to this squad. I am proud of their progress, and I hope that the core of them stick together and I get to see what they are like as seniors,” he said.

Walsh went on to commend players such as junior Scout Weymouth for being a committed team member, sophomore Sage Reardon for her impeccable scoring streak, sophomore Lily Pickering for being a solid defense and offense player; junior Kamaile Segundo and sophomore Gillian Hedden for their contributions; and sophomore Nanea Haynes for being “potentially the best goalie in the league.”

These younger girls are the future for water polo. Freshman Camille Erdman, who started playing water polo this year, said, “I wanted to try water polo because my sister did it last year and she loved it. It seemed like a really fun team to be on and I already knew Coach Walsh was awesome! Water polo has taught me that you have to fight back when you want to keep your head above water, keep up the good sportsmanship, and communicate with your team members.”

From just a fantasy to a force to be reckoned with, the Seabury Hall water polo team has made a long journey throughout these two years. The girls finished their season at the Kihei Aquatic Center on Thursday, April 23, sealing another successful MIL season.

What is in store for this young team? Well, the underclassman of the water polo team are nothing short of outstanding athletes with a focused mind. We can bet that in the years to come we will watch the unfolding of many incredible seasons.