North Allegheny water polo team grows, hosts competition
Submitted photos:North Allegheny senior Mia Siclari (right) takes a shot during a recent water polo match. The team had a rare opportunity to compete at home.Martin Raitt (right) eyeballs a way to make a shot past a competitor in the pool.North Alleghenyby KAREN KADILAKFor the Tribune-ReviewThe Tiger Water Polo Club at North Allegheny High School did something rare last weekend: It competed at home.One of about 30 high school teams in the state, North Allegheny's team is the only one in Western Pennsylvania. And because it is the only organized youth water polo club in the area, Tiger Water Polo Club usually has to compete out of state.On May 9, the team hosted the Turbo International Cup, in which nine girls teams and eight boys teams from Canada, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania competed in the North Allegheny pool."For one weekend, we were the mecca of water polo in the East," club President Jim Staresinic said. "There were 200 players. We had 105 last year, which we thought was great."The 6-year-old Tiger club, which has 70 members, trains year-round. Players ages 10 to 18 compete in various age groups. There is an instructional league for beginners."We're still growing and play strictly for enjoyment," Staresinic said.Water polo combines characteristics of basketball, soccer, hockey and handball. A team consists of six players and one goalkeeper. Players pass the ball while being defended by opponents and score by throwing the ball into a net defended by a goalie. Play involves swimming and treading water using a kicking motion known as an eggbeater."The eggbeater is what makes water polo fun," Ariana Siclari, 10, said. "I love doing it.""(Tiger Water Polo) has a lot of potential," said Nikola Malezanov, 31, a former assistant water polo coach at the Naval academy who is in first year as coach of the club. "The swimming community is huge and so are the possibilities for water polo to grow in the area."Members look forward to playing at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympic Championships, to be held in late July and early August at Stanford University and surrounding communities in northern California."You get tired of playing against the same teams," said Mia Siclari, 16. "At national events, you're with different teams and players."Water polo is popular among some competitive swimmers. Many members of the Tiger Water Polo Club are competitive swimmers."There's more action in water polo; you're playing as a team," Grant Rauterkus, 14, said. "It's a good way to break up the monotony (of competitive swimming)."The club evolved from a high school team co-founded by North Allegheny High School swim coach Corky Semler in 2001."Water polo is great conditioning for swimming," said Semler, who has tried to convince other high schools to field teams. "We encourage our swimmers to participate."