Naperville North’s Anna Tarantino and Grace Raquel leave the friendly confines of their home pool to play Water Polo on the National Stage.
Huskies were in the water this weekend… not at the Naperville North pool… but 2000 miles away in Riverside, California.
Grace Raquel: These girls that I’m playing with are some of the best in the region, in the Midwest. And it’s just such an amazing opportunity to get to work with these girls.
Grace Raquel is the goalie at North and plays on the Midwest Zone team competing at the USA Women’s Youth Olympic Water Polo National Championships. Along with Anna Tarantino, they’re taking part in the Olympic Development Program… which allows them to size up the competition.
Anna Tarantino: That’s where the best water polo players are, and have a ton of experience. So it’s awesome to get to play against the, so you can learn more and develop their kind of game play.
For the two North players, the opportunity to not only perform on a big stage, but to do so against rigorous competition, is crucial in making their high school team even better.
Anna: I’m going to learn some new things out in California and bring it back to the team that can help us advance in the season. And I’m proud of our team for last year and how well we did and hope to do it again.
And that also means formulating some scouting reports.
Grace: My teammates who go to different high schools, I’m watching them and I know what their habits are and I’m trying to help them as best as I can. But I’m also taking notes for myself for when we play them later in the season.
Both got their starts on their neighborhood’s summer water polo teams… just as Grace’s younger sister did.
Sophie: Her coached asked me one day if I wanted to join them and I said sure so I hopped in the pool with all the older kids and they got me started on water polo.
Sophie is now in 8th grade… on the verge of joining older sister Grace in high school. But she’s already learned so much from the netminder.
Sophie: I was able to watch what she was doing and learn from it. And she aged up and there were no other goals, so I ended up taking the goalie spot from her. And she told me everything I needed to do.
And just as water polo seems to run in the Raquel family, the same goes for the Tarantinos
Anna: I was first introduced to water polo around 8 because of my brother. He’s always loved it and we’ve always been swimmers. And we have this team for our country club at the pool in the summer. And my dad wanted me to try out for it and I did. And I had so much fun and I’ve been playing ever since.
North took third in state last year and is aiming for even higher. And if they get there – well, the future looks bright with another Raquel on the way.
Reporting for NSW, I’m Kevin Jackman