Club experience helps HP find immediate success in water polo
For seniors such as Roman Duong, Turner Melley, and Luka Zivaljevic, the addition of a Highland Park water polo team provides a timely opportunity to compete for their school.
The inaugural season also offers the trio a chance to play alongside their younger brothers on a team that features three sets of siblings comprising almost half of its varsity roster.
“It was a big game-changer,” Zivaljevic said. “I’ve always wanted to represent Highland Park in water polo.”
With the UIL sanctioning water polo for the first time this fall, HP is taking advantage thanks to a wealth of players with extensive experience on the local club circuit.
They hope that pedigree translates into a successful debut for the Scots and a foundation for future prosperity as more students, not just swimmers, become involved.
“We have high expectations,” Zivaljevic said. “We’re setting the bar pretty high.”
Starting a new program yields plenty of firsts. The players even got to help design the program’s logo and pick out equipment.
The siblings agree that having their brothers as teammates is beneficial, even if the intensity of their bonds through the sport varies.
“At the dinner table, we always talk about it,” said Ivan Zivaljevic, Luka’s younger brother. “When we’re in the water next to each other, we always try to swim faster or push each other.”
Luka Zivaljevic and Roman Duong are the leading scorers for HP. Duong and his younger brother, Jacob, don’t communicate as frequently about water polo outside the pool.
“We choose not to because when we go from a game to home, we just want to relax,” Duong said. “Me and Jacob, we know where our levels are at. I can trust him.”
The HP program might technically be in its infancy, but multiple athletes have already garnered attention from the National Team Selection Camp sponsored by USA Water Polo.
Last year, Can Caglar became the first player from HP to receive a college scholarship in the sport. Caglar, who was a swimmer for the school, is now a goaltender at Loyola Marymount University in California.
After wrapping up the regular-season schedule, the Scots will begin postseason play in mid-October with the goal of qualifying for the first-ever UIL state tournament.