Captains Profile: Girls Varsity Water Polo

This year, the Girls Varsity Water Polo team is led by Co-Captains Fiona Pando ’21 and Vivien Schmitz ’21, both of whom are in their third seasons as members of the program.

This year, the Girls Varsity Water Polo team is led by Co-Captains Fiona Pando ’21 and Vivien Schmitz ’21, both of whom are in their third seasons as members of the program.

Schmitz’s past swimming experience and her attendance at a water polo summer camp convinced her to join the Lawrenceville team as a new III Former. Throughout her three years, water polo has been a sport that “pushed [her] to discover new boundaries” every training session. “Climbing out of the pool each day, I’m always tired, but I know that I’ve worked my hardest to show myself that I can always do more.” Regardless of the type of drill or game, the environment created by the “tight-knit yet competitive” squad drives Schmitz to be the best possible player she can be and overcome the mental and physical fatigue that come with the sport. “I’ve come to realize just how much I appreciate knowing that I’m so much stronger and [more] fearless than I once thought I was.”

Pando, the starting goalkeeper, also started playing water polo during her III form year. Despite playing soccer her II Form year, Pando switched to water polo following the persuasion of her crew captains. Fortunately, the adjustment from the field to the pool came with ease, as Pando always enjoyed swimming, spending a lot of time near the ocean from a young age. She appreciates the dedication water polo requires and its balance between individual and team play.

As a captain, Schmitz is one of the more experienced and skilled players in the pool, yet her start in the sport was far from easy, saying that she “was not an amazing swimmer and had very little knowledge of the sport.” Confused at first, Schmitz considered quitting her first week and questioned whether playing water polo was the right decision. Nonetheless, Schmitz endured the hardships and carried on; in just a few weeks, she familiarized herself with the drills and started to develop her love for water polo. Pando faced challenges of her own with prior knee injuries and a minor hip injury restricting her from performing eggbeater kicks, but Pando’s strong work ethic and determined mindset to “battle through the pain” have allowed her to continue competing at a high level.

Schmitz noted that the pre-game traditions are one of the most memorable aspects of her water polo experience. Before a match, the team circles up and chants, “let’s get a little bit rowdy,” slowly and crescendos for each repetition––a ritual that gets “everyone rushing with adrenaline.” Pando, on the other hand, pinpointed the 2019 match-up versus the Hill School as one of her most meaningful games during her time on the team. At Hill that year, the opponent’s stands greeted Pando with hisses and boos during the game’s final minutes. “I had the ball, and they were just booing me. I remember looking at my coach because I was freaking out.” Despite the overwhelming pressure, the passionate cheers from her teammates, coaches, and the bench motivated her to perform and ultimately finish the match with a well-deserved victory.

With Covid-19 restrictions in place, the team has gone back to the basics: swimming, passing, and ball-handling skills, all drills that require minimal contact and follow social distancing guidelines. Moreover, with minimal space in the pool, the team has invested more time in dryland workouts and strength training with the Al-Rashid trainers. Pando also said that “it’s important for the newcomers to have at least some sort of competition, since everyone in the pool is an athlete and there to compete.” While the chances of competing against neighboring schools remain slim, moving forward, the captains plan on organizing multiple intrasquad games, swimming relay races, and potentially a scrimmage with the Boys Junior Varsity water polo team.

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