Tiger Water Polo Club players heading to ODP events
North Allegheny's Tiger Water Polo Club will have a strong presence at the USA Water Polo Olympic Development Program National Championships set to begin this week in the Tri-Valley region of Northern California.
Eleven boys will compete Friday to Sunday (Feb. 24-26) and four girls March 10-12 for the Great Lakes Zone.
The tournament is for boys and girls who were born in 2000 or after. Players will compete in three age groups and be evaluated for national teams.
Players were selected at camps in their zones.
Tigers boys are Kerem Kocyildirim, Max Moore, Jacob Hollo, Ben Phillips, Akshana Dassanaike, Miles Mattson, Blake Camerlin, Sean McClellan, Keller Sens, Christopher Fisher and Kyle Hammond.
Competing for the girls will be Sarah Koehler, Anna Kegel, Rebecca Melanson and Grace Ford.
Tigers coach Nikola Malezanov said two other members were selected, but cannot make it. He said the club usually sends 10 to 15 players a year.
“We are having (a) successful year,” Malezanov said. “We have a dedicated group of players and parents (who) are committed to training and rarely miss a practice.
“The enthusiasm right now for improvement is on a high level between coaches and players.”
Malezanov, a native of Serbia, said Damir Matanovic of Montenegro has been a solid addition to the coaching staff.
North Allegheny freshman Sarah Koehler, 15, looks forward to her first nationals.
“In the last year as a high school player, I have worked toward becoming a better defensive player,” she said. “But there are many other athletes practicing just as hard as I am.”
Miles Mattson, 14, an eighth grader at the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School from Franklin Park, enjoys watching other players.
“The intensity of play is very high and the game is fast paced,” he said. “I am always entertained even when I am not playing.
“(My coaches) coach at a high level and this sets the bar.”
The Tiger Water Polo Club was founded shortly after the North Allegheny varsity program in 2001.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.