Water Polo: Coaches see spring as best chance for season

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Upper Arlington's Jimmy Colombo competes during the Ohio Cup last September at Thomas Worthington. The Ohio Water Polo Coaches Association voted 24-0 on July 27 to move the boys and girls fall seasons to spring because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The fall versus spring debate has been discussed among high school water polo coaches for years, but it took the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to bring about at least a temporary change.

The Ohio Water Polo Coaches Association voted 24-0 on July 27 to move the boys and girls fall seasons to spring because of the pandemic.

For this school year, water polo will follow swimming and diving instead of leading into the winter sport. Some coaches, however, would like to see the move to spring become permanent.

Unlike swimming and diving, water polo is not sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. There were 14 boys teams in the 2019 postseason in Ohio, including St. Charles, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Worthington Kilbourne. The 10 girls teams included Kilbourne, Thomas and UA.

“I think the move to spring will have a lot of positives and a lot of coaches, including myself, think the change should be permanent,” Kilbourne and Thomas girls coach Olivia Miranda said. “I like that the kids will be in shape from swimming. Normally in the fall, we spend the first third of the season getting in shape, but now we can go straight into learning technique and other aspects of the game.

“Swimming can be tough and the kids might be mentally tired, but they’ll be in shape. It also will give a break to the competitive swimmers who go straight from high school to junior meets. It could help everyone.”

Miranda said surrounding states have spring seasons for girls water polo, including Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri. Michigan boys water polo is in the fall, but workouts and competitions have been suspended because of the pandemic.

UA boys coach J.J. Spangler said the decision to move the fall 2020 season to spring 2021 was simple.

“In our opinion, we didn’t think there seemed to be a chance of being able to have a season because certain schools were limiting access to pools and that would make it difficult to have some of our tournaments,” Spangler said. “At least in the spring, there was the possibility that we would be able to have a season.

“We had been practicing for the last couple weeks, socially distancing and doing drills and non-contact stuff, but we’re not moving forward as of now. (Moving to spring is good because) there’s a possibility of having some kind of competition. There would have been none in the fall.”

Last fall in the boys state tournament, St. Charles won its second consecutive championship by defeating UA 9-8 at Mason. For the girls, UA won its first state title since 2016 by defeating the Cincinnati Mavericks 10-8 at Cincinnati Princeton.

UA senior Caroline Colombo, who was named the ThisWeek girls water polo Player of the Year the past two seasons, believes the move will give the Golden Bears more options with their schedule.

“It will be a good change because we could have more games outside of Ohio teams and some teams from Pennsylvania,” she said. “We also could play more games outdoors in the nice spring weather. Also, they play water polo during the spring in college. It will be different all the way around.”

UA junior Caroline Porterfield likes the idea of playing a full season, but she could see how some athletes might not like the switch to spring.

“I personally don’t mind, but that would be different if I ran track or played lacrosse and had to choose,” she said. “That would make a lot of people upset.

“I don’t play lacrosse anymore, but after swimming I like to relax and concentrate on school more. Right now, I’m just happy that we will have a full season, which we wouldn’t have this fall.”

Miranda believes safety is the utmost benefit of the move.

“I think the kids will ultimately benefit (from the move to spring),” she said. “We can have a safer season.

“There are a lot of question marks about the fall. There were a lot of concerns by the girls, their parents and the (schools). We hopefully will have more information (by the spring) and everything will be safer for everyone involved.”

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen