Senior Raven Young began her aquatic career at the age of 10 by enrolling in swim lessons and later joining the YMCA swim team, where her coach recommended that she try water poloSenior Raven Young began her aquatic career at the age of 10 by enrolling in swim lessons and later joining the YMCA swim team, where her coach recommended that she try water polo.
Upon joining Gold Coast Water Polo Club, Young found the sport to be much more intriguing than swimming, and went on to play for South Coast Aquatics, Buena Water Polo Club and Los Angeles Water Polo Club.
“Swimming is a really individual sport. You try to get your own best time and water polo is such a team sport that [it] really taught me how to play with others,” Young said.
Beginning water polo in eighth grade and making the Buena team freshman year, she turned down the opportunity to play for her home school.
“I chose to stay at Buena just because the girls are some of my best friends. I love playing with them and I have a good coach; I really like the camaraderie we all have together,” Young explained.
The team practices eight times a week, with morning practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But a cold pool doesn’t seem to be too appealing to most at 5 a.m.
On top of that, afternoon practices are held for two and a half hours everyday after school.
Junior Gracelyn De La Cruz plays on the team alongside Young.
“Raven is such a driven polo player. She plays set which in my opinion is the hardest position to play; she’s in there fighting tooth and nail and she comes up scoring like crazy,” De La Cruz said.
In Young’s opinion, the most challenging aspect of the sport is its entirety.
“The whole sport is pretty tough,” she said. “It depends on the kind of team you’re playing; water polo has a reputation of being kind of violent. Some coaches teach their girls to be dirty and play violently,” she explained. “It’s just staying above that, and not going down to that level. It really takes away the fun of the sport.”
Water polo gave her something she hadn’t gained prior: a sense of competition.
“At Buena, we don’t have a reputation of being a good team. When we go against teams and give them a run for their money and it’s a really close game the whole time, that’s really rewarding because it’s like all of our hard work is finally paying off,” she said.
Buena varsity girls’ water polo coach Mariah Bryan is excited to see Young progress this season.
“I’ve seen her understanding of water polo grow, as well as her confidence as a leader on the team increase,” Bryan said. “It’s been a joy watching her mature into the player and person she has become.”
Young doesn’t plan to play water polo “super competitively” in college, but would consider playing for a club.
Next season she’ll be missed by her teammates.
“The team wouldn’t be the same without her and it’s going to be hard to adjust next year when she graduates,” De La Cruz said.