Apr 30, 2021
After 50 years governed by the Texas Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association, water polo is being adopted as an official sport by the UIL beginning this fall season.
“It’s something TISCA has wanted,” said Richmond Foster coach Kassy Parker, who enters her third season leading the aquatics program. “People have worked really hard to get it UIL. It’s exciting because it means there’s more growth in the sport. It means more attention, and now younger kids will grow up knowing it’s an option for them. It’s really cool.”
Three years after winning a state championship, Foster’s girls team placed third at state last season. The boys team finished second in 2019, when the girls won it all.
Foster joins Baytown Sterling, Cypress Creek, Clear Creek, Clear Lake, Humble, St. Agnes and Clear Brook as Greater Houston area teams with girls water polo state championships. On the boys side, Clear Lake, Baytown Sterling, Clear Creek, Cypress Creek, Humble, North Shore, Strake Jesuit and Tomball have state titles. Brazoswood and Bridgeland are also perennial area powers.
Last season, Foster’s girls earned the highest Houston-area finish at state in May (the season will now be played during the fall).
“Obviously we want to win, but every team does,” said senior Lola Trujillo, an all-state first team selection last season. “We’re going to try to get everyone on the same page and try our best. Every team is going to do the same and it’s going to be a fight for first place.”
The Foster water polo program’s success was initiated by coach Scott Slay, the man responsible for coaching the Falcons girls to the state title.
Slay, now the head coach at Katy Jordan and the highly-regarded Viper Pigeons club program, built the Foster program from the ground up and was critical in growing the sport in the southwest Houston area.
“It got younger kids on board,” Parker said. “So, we get kids who’ve been playing the sport for a while.”
Senior Dalia Kohn said the Viper Pigeons program has been vital.
“They have a great coach,” Kohn said. “It’s an amazing environment. We’re all trying to build each other up. That club has really helped our school because everyone here joins it, gets better during the summer and when the season starts, we’re all already on the same page.”
Parker was an assistant at Stratford for four years before she was hired to succeed Slay. She currently has 14 girls and 30 boys, mostly sophomores, in the water polo program. She said it’s easier to get boys involved. Girls tend to enjoy the sport once they try it, but it can look intimidating to parents and athletes from the outside.
Foster water polo players pose for a photo.VYPE Media
The majority of athletes in the Foster water polo program come from the swim team but Parker is optimistic she can recruit more from other sports now that it is sanctioned by the UIL. She said swimmers with a background in basketball and/or softball tend to make for good water polo players.
Trujillo had a gymnastics background.
“I got bored, and my sister was always a swimmer,” Trujillo said. “When she got to Foster, Slay got her into water polo. I started swimming and she got me interested. I came to practice and thought, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool.’
“It’s a lot of different sports combined while having the swimming aspect. Every game is different. With swimming and gymnastics, it’s the same thing every time you compete. With water polo, everyone plays different, teams play differently. You see something new every time and you have to figure out what to do.”
Coaches and athletes think the popularity of a sport said to be “a combination of soccer and rugby in the water” will grow considerably now that the UIL is involved.
\u201cFoster all-state senior Dalia Kohn talks about the UIL adopting water polo as a sport starting this season, the effect of that and what people can expect from the sport. @lcisdathletics @FHSStudentNews @FosterSportsMed @FHSABC_TX @FosterSwim @LamarCISD\u201d— VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston) 1659631104
“In past years, water polo hasn’t been a big sport,” Kohn said. “No one knows of it, we have to pay for everything, we’re doing everything ourselves. Even our school doesn’t recognize water polo as much as football or basketball, which is understandable, but now that it’s UIL, we’ll get recognized more.
“More stuff will get done. It’ll get more exposure. There will be more media. More people will get interested. More clubs will start. More teams will start. Just this year alone for high school, there’s tons and tons more teams.”
But the UIL’s strongest influence may come in the pockets of participants.
Coaches and players feel the sport will grow in participation now that funds are being covered. Along with equipment, players were also responsible for their own transportation and paying for hotels to and from games.
Trujillo said players would drop out of the sport because it was too much of a financial burden on families.
“Previous years, we’ve had to pay for everything ourselves,” Trujillo said. “It’s great the UIL is recognizing us as a sport and we’ll get the funds so it won’t be trouble for us to pay for stuff.”
Foster water polo coach Kassy Parker.VYPE Media
A typical water polo game is more physical and aggressive than many people think, Parker said. It is a battle of attrition for four quarters. The depths of the pools differ and are unique to each respective facility.
Foster’s practice pool is 7 ½ feet deep. The Lamar Consolidated ISD natatorium is 12 feet deep.
“If you have never watched water polo before, it’s definitely exciting,” Parker said. “Obviously I’m biased, but I think it’s the world’s most fun sport to play. It’s aggressive but it takes a lot of technical and tactical skill. People are shocked that you’re not standing in the water. You’re treading the whole time. If you come from a basketball background, you’ll recognize similarities, like, ‘Oh, they ran a pick.’”
Foster’s girls are once one of the favorites to come away with a state championship this season.
Trujillo and Kohn are offensively and defensively gifted and two of the best players in the Greater Houston area. Junior Clara McKee is a force in the cage. Sophomore Kinley Niles is a precocious talent and mature beyond her years. Sophomore Emma Woods is also a central figure.
“We all have the intention to win,” Kohn said. “Last year, we could’ve won state. We felt it was taken from us. This year, we’re not getting second or third. We’re all coming together and working to get first.”
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HOUSTON - Welcome to The Big 3!
A new VYPE piece that honors some of the best performances from the previous night's volleyball action. We will carry this over to football, basketball and many other sports throughout the 2022-2023 season.
But we start with volleyball! It was an exciting night as the season officially got underway on Tuesday night with amazing action across the Houston area.
Here are three of the biggest individual performances and some honorable mentions.
Coaches to Nominate players for The Big 3, please email your player of the match with stats to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Twitter @vypehouston. Nominations are taken through 10 am the following day after a game. (For tournaments, please submit those by Monday at 10 am.)
Farah Farooq - Eipscopal
Episcopal had a great start to their season under new head coach Cydrice McMillian. The Knights went on the road and defeated Regional Finalist College Station (3-2) and perennial power Fulshear (3-2). That is a pair of solid wins. In those, Farah Farooq was dominant, racking up 21 kills, 5 blocks and 2 aces in the pair of wins.
Darby Moore - FB Austin
Fort Bend Austin opened up the 2022 season with a four-set win over Bellaire (19-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-23) and a big key to that was the play of senior setter Darby Moore. By night's end, Moore had 24 assists, 10 digs and 4 aces for the Bulldogs.
Maggie Ellender - Klein Oak
A nice start to the year for Klein Oak on Tuesday with a five-set win over FB Clements (23-25, 25-12, 24-26, 25-23, 15-11) and a three-set victory over Cy Falls (25-11, 25-9, 25-9). In both of those matches, Maggie Ellender played lights out at setter. Ellender in the first match recorded 39 assists, while notching an additional 27 in the second match of the night.
Cierra Pesak, Friendswood (Libero) - 16 Digs vs Dickinson.
Kenedi Medford, Conroe - 19 assists, 17 digs vs Lake Creek
Asia Davis, Aldine Davis - 10 digs, 9 aces, 7 kills, 3 assists vs Goose Creek Memorial
Also, check out the highlights from the KPRC2 Volleyball Game of the Week between Tompkins and Ridge Point. The Falcons defeated the Panthers in five sets, winning the last one 15-13 to secure the 3-2 victory.
Tompkins entered the season as VYPE's No. 9 team in Houston, while Ridge Point was No. 3 in the preseason Class 6A rankings.
🚨 VYPE @KPRC2 Volleyball Game Highlights🚨
Check out the highlights from Tuesday's EPIC five-set thriller between @OTHSVolleyball and @RP_Volleyball!! #txhsvb@KatyISDAthletic@FBISDAthletics@BMerrell5@sydney___jordan@CTchouangwa@FortBendISD@EDellesky@CondreyJosiepic.twitter.com/9KyXqnsmzG
— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) August 10, 2022
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Brady Dever’s first love was baseball. Growing up, he always had a glove or bat in his hand. But as a sophomore two years ago, he started to realize it was football that could take him somewhere.
That place is Brown University. And though it was Dever’s play on the football field that was a boon to his recruiting profile, it was his play on the diamond that got things started.
Earlier this week, the Fort Bend Christian Academy senior quarterback and infielder committed to Brown to play both sports.
“I was always a baseball-first kid, and I received my first offer as a freshman,” Dever said. “I had good football years as a sophomore and junior. I worked even harder to get to this point, to play both sports at the highest level.”
Dever said Brown is an “amazing” campus.
“Brown is in Providence, Rhode Island, but it’s not downtown,” Dever said. “It sits on a hill that looks into downtown and it is a beautiful sight. The campus is beautiful, and the facilities are amazing as well. I also really liked the open curriculum. When I went to visit, it felt like home.”
Dever is one of the more prolific quarterbacks in the Greater Houston area. He completed 64 percent of his passes and threw for 4,054 yards and 62 touchdowns while helping lead the Eagles to the TAPPS 5A state semifinals last season.
Entering this season, Dever has a good shot finishing in the state’s all-time leaders in passing yards, touchdowns and completions.
He spoke more with VYPE:
VYPE: What kind of plans/vision did coaches at Brown see for you?
DEVER: They think I can make an immediate impact right away. Brown is a very QB-friendly system and they have had some great QBs in the past. Coach (James) Perry is a QB guru and has a great reputation for developing quarterbacks. Coach (Grant) Achilles, as far as baseball goes, came to see me play this summer and loved my ability as a hitter and thought I would be very valuable to him as a player and person. Both sides have been very involved in the whole process. It felt very good to be wanted.
VYPE: How would you describe the recruiting process? What was the toughest part? What was the most fun part?
DEVER: The whole process was great. We had some mutual connections already and all the pieces fell into place. I’ve gotten to be pretty good friends with Everett Skillern (former athlete at Second Baptist School, a district rival of FBCA’s), who will be a freshman at Brown this year, and he’s helped me throughout the process. The whole staff was very interested in me on both sides, and they were always in contact with me. I went up to camp with my family and girlfriend and they made us feel at home and they went out of their way to make me feel that way. It was pouring rain when I visited, yet I still performed and fell in love with the campus.
VYPE: How important was it to you to find a school where you could play both football and baseball?
DEVER: It was really important to me. I’ve worked so hard since I was a little kid to make this dream come true and that is what happened. It takes sacrifices to make it happen but I’m all for it and I will do what it takes to make it work. To have the opportunity to play both in college is a blessing.
VYPE: What was the commitment to both football and baseball like? What were the sacrifices?
DEVER: I’ve sacrificed my summers for the last 10 years, playing both sports all over the country. It’s going to take a lot of sacrifices to play both sports because I’ll be doing it at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It will definitely be difficult.
VYPE: How relieved are you to get the recruiting over with before your senior year starts?
DEVER: I’m very relieved. Now the weight of recruiting has been lifted off my shoulders. My family and I have prayed about this for a long time, and it feels good to have finally made the decision and to not have to worry about recruiting again. I’m looking forward to enjoying my senior year at FBCA.
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