Close-knit team of 50 co-eds bonds through competition

Members of UM's men's club water polo teamwrestle for the ball during a scrimmage at the UC pool. Katie Sikora // Contributing Photographer

From a distance, one can hear a whistle blowing, people shouting and a ball being thrown around. No, the players are not on a field. Instead, they can be found in the University Center pool playing water polo.

Water polo consists of a team of six field players and one goalkeeper. The object of the game is to score the most points by throwing a ball into a net defended by a goalie.

UM’s water polo team was founded by Jimena Lopez, who is now the team’s instructor. Lopez was asked to coach by her younger brother and his friends who wanted to take the sport more seriously.

The water polo team has improved greatly over the past year. It has gone from being ranked last in its division to the top ranking in the state of Florida. This achievement is due to the strong work ethic of the players who practice, rain or shine.

“No experience is necessary to become part of the water polo team and it is a great way to get in shape and it is a lot of fun,” junior Anthony Kanelidis said.

Kanelidis, a neuroscience major, was the team’s president last year. He has been involved in water polo since his freshman year as vice-president. Kanelidis, along with teammates Ricky Herrera and Juan Lopez, attended Belen Jesuit Preparatory School where they were water polo state champions. They have brought their love for the game to UM and carried the team to new highs.

“Water polo has taught me leadership skills, communication skills and to be a team player,” Kanelidis said.

Herrera, a junior majoring in neuroscience, enjoys the “camaraderie in and out of the water.”

The team has over 50 members who are mostly male, but it manages to have a strong female presence. Kanita Chonecadeedumrongkul, a junior majoring in environmental engineering, enjoys playing water polo because it is a great outlet to vent frustration.

“It’s a place where you can let go of your daily frustration and just play and concentrate on the game,” she said. “Coming from out of state, it feels welcoming to be part of a team that is so close-knit like water polo.”

The water polo team is a very diverse group composed of people from all over the world who come together to play a sport they love most.