Area high school water polo treads new ground

SAN ANTONIO — Alamo Heights water polo is in a familiar place — the playoffs.

However, this year strikes differently in the inaugural year of the sport’s affiliation with UIL.

Last year, the Mules boys and girls were the only area schools to qualify for the Texas Intercollegiate Swimming Coaches Association (TISCA) state tournament.

Both teams brought back a lot of experience from those runs and that’s the main reason each reached records of 10-0 in the 25-6A district and overall records of 19-2.

Top players for the Mules include Meriden Black who has 50+ goals and Avery Kieschnick who has 40+ goals. Goaltender Emma Hetrick averages 8.0 blocks per game. Other top returnees are Liliana Gamiz and Francesca Batiz.

Alamo Heights top boys include EJ Gonzales, Vance Matthews, Derek Montoya, Jude Adan and James Cox.

Both teams hope to build on a legacy established since 1972 when they started playing as a club team at TISCA.

First round


Brandeis vs. New Braunfels Canyon, 5:15 p.m. Monday Alamo Heights Natatorium

Alamo Heights vs. Boerne Champion, 5:15 p.m. Monday, Northside ISD Swim Center

Davenport vs. Clark, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Alamo Heights Natatorium

Health Careers vs. Smithson Valley, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Northside ISD Swim Center

Taft vs. Highlands, 7:45 p.m. Monday, Northside ISD Swim Center

To note:
Brennan, Southwest, Southwest Legacy, Holmes, O’Connor, Harlan and Stevens receive first-round byes


Clark vs. New Braunfels Canyon, 5:15 a.m. Tuesday, Alamo Heights Natatorium

Boerne Champion vs. Smithson Valley, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Pieper High School

Harlan vs. Highlands, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Northside ISD Swim Center

Marshall vs. Alamo Heights, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Alamo Heights Natatorium

Davenport vs. Brandeis, 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Alamo Heights Natatorium

To note:
O’Connor, Brennan, Warren, Jay, Holmes, Stevens and Southwest Legacy receive first-round byes

Key dates

Monday: Beginning of the playoffs

October 22:
Regional Tournament IV, Southwest ISD Aquatic Center

October 29:
(Provisional) Josh Davis Natatorium, San Antonio

Both won state titles in 1979. The girls were runners-up in 1977, 1978, and 1986. The boys were runners-up in 1978, 1980, 1981, and 1985.

Perfect Brandeis Girls

The Brandeis girls, 26-6A district champions, are 15-0 (8-0 in the league) and were one of two teams to defeat Alamo Heights. The Broncos play in New Braunfels Canyon at 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Alamo Heights Natatorium. They beat Canyon 13-2 earlier this season.

Senior Grace Goldhammer has a team record 45 goals followed by 30 for junior Camila Diarte. Senior Reeve Sanchez has 24 goals and 20 assists. Senior goaltender Ashley Easley made 56 saves.

“I have three or four girls who are really committed to playing at the club all summer, so we had a solid foundation for this season,” said Megan Perez, who coaches the girls’ and boys’ teams at Brandeis.

The Broncos have successfully blended that experience with newcomers to the sport.

“Our girls are really ready to embrace the sport and learn and accept this criticism of everything we work on and race with,” Perez said. “Our senior leadership has a goal that we want to go further in the playoffs and we want to go in the state for the first year.”

The beginnings of the champion

Boerne Champion never had a water polo team – club or otherwise – until this season.

The Chargers boys won the district championship 26-6A going 8-0 in league and 10-0 overall with a mix of experience and newcomers.

“They managed to pick up on some of the more basic parts of the game pretty quickly,” said Alberto Escalante, who coaches the boys’ and girls’ teams. “It was fun getting them technically outfitted and then going through game scenarios.”

Bexon Harrison, Jake Canales, Will Harrison, Emi Martinez-Galaraza, Roberto Perez-Puente and Ian Rutledge have club experience from San Antonio teams.

The Chargers girls made the playoffs despite starting with players with little or no experience. The champ went 2-6 in district and 3-7 overall.

Top female performers include Kate Deykin, Cayden Van Dyne, Victoria Adame, Kenna Chastain, Jacey Wolf, Cora Skoog and Lilly Schiffelbein.

The format under UIL

Until this year, TISCA had held state playoffs every year since 1972. This also included private school participation.

After years of serving as an intramural sport and club in high school, water polo begins its first postseason run at a UIL sport on Monday.

There is only one classification – Class 6A – for schools of all enrollment levels. There are 32 districts, eight of which are divided into four regions.

The top four teams from each district qualify for the playoffs. Playoffs are similar formats in other UIL team sports with a single elimination bracket of 64 places.

But not all places are filled. There are three open quarters. Districts matching those in the first round receive first-round passes. This includes District 29-6A, as Corpus Christi Area 30-6A dropped out last summer due to low expected attendance.

Highlands was the only successful team in San Antonio ISD District 27-6A in boys and girls. They received the first playoff seed and lined up with 28-6A’s four seeds — Taft girls and Harlan boys.

Goodbye around parenthesis

Seven boys’ teams and seven girls’ teams receive byes to the first round.

Teams receiving first-round byes in Girls 29-6A are Sevens, Southwest Legacy, Holmes and Southwest. In 28-6A, O’Connor, Harlan and Stevens got first-round byes due to the lack of teams in 27-6A.

In boys 29-6A, Jay, Holmes, Stevens and Southwest Legacy in addition to O’Connor, Brennan and Warren of 28-6A get first-round byes.

The Northside Story

Northside ISD has 13 schools across three districts this season. Northside has an illustrious history in water polo.

Clark’s daughters won four TISCA State Championships from 1983 to 1986. Marshall’s daughters won three from 1980 to 1982 and another in 1987. Taft’s daughters won in 1988.

Clark’s boys won four state titles from 1983 to 1985. Marshall won in 1987 and Holmes in 1981.

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