Girls Varsity Water Polo defeats Lyons Township for the conference title

The+team+finishes+the+game+with+a+team+cheer+following+their+victory%2C+a+change+due+to+COVID-19+protocols.+%22We+aren%E2%80%99t+allowed+to+shake+hands+after+matches%2C+so+the+sportsmanship+is+a+little+bit+different%2C%22+senior+Emma+Stec+said.+%22We+just+do+a+cheer.%22

Photo courtesy of Grace Callen

The team finishes the game with a team cheer following their victory, a change due to COVID-19 protocols. “We aren’t allowed to shake hands after matches, so the sportsmanship is a little bit different,” senior Emma Stec said. “We just do a cheer.”

CeCe Lampa, Co-Editor-in-Chief of TIY

For the first time under the direction of varsity coach Mark Giuliani, the York Girls Varsity Water Polo Team exited the conference match victorious following a tight 17-16 win over Lyons Township. 

Despite the challenges COVID-19 presents for the team, they are playing one of their best seasons to date with only two losses and two victories over two-time state finalist Lyons Township. 

“Overall, [the pandemic] has brought us closer as a team because we’ve had to work around this challenge and figure everything out,” senior and captain Emma Stec said. “I think that we have a really good team dynamic. We just really all work well together and execute well.”

Stec will continue her academic and athletic career at Wagner College next year, where she will play on their NCAA Division I Water Polo team. However, she only serves as one of the team’s several standouts. Sophomore Rose Jensen is a varsity starter who has served as a dominant force in the team’s success. 

“We have been very successful this year, and we have only lost two games so far,” Jensen said. “We really have just been practicing a lot and playing well with each other.”

The team also not only adjusted to COVID-19 regulations during games but throughout practices as well. 

“During a ‘normal’ season, we share the Aquatics facility with the boys’ program, but due to COVID-19, we aren’t able to have that many people on deck, which has significantly impacted how we practice day to day,” Giuliani said. “This has meant that we alternate a.m. and p.m. practices with the boys.”

Although the pandemic presents a unique set of challenges for aquatics, athletes, coaches and players alike have seen insurmountable positive change for the program.

“As a team, our offense and defense have become so much more aware and confident while handling the ball under pressure,” Giuliani said. “I believe that COVID-19 took a toll on everyone, but I think, after we only had a week-long season last year, everyone was ready to compete. Connections have been all the more important to have during this time, and our girls benefit from how close they are in and out of the water.”

As the girls prepare to compete in the IHSA State Series, they will face a difficult task, with a sectional including the nine-time-state champion Fenwick team. 

“All in all, we are a very dominant team, but we still have a long way to go,” Stec said.