North Allegheny grad relishes experience at water polo Junior Olympics
Zach Presto did know the way to San Jose success.
A 2012 North Allegheny graduate, Presto played for the Santa Clara (Calif.) under-18 water polo team that competed in the Junior Olympics last month. His squad compiled a 7-2 record, finishing 13th in a field of 84.
“This was the best (Junior Olympics) team I played on,” said Presto, a starter for the 34 seed.. “It did the best.”
It also may have been his top personal performance in five years as a Junior Olympian, U14 through U18.
“This was probably one of my best tournaments,” he said. “I held my position, and the team played well for not playing together much beforehand. We executed well.”
So, of course, did Presto, who has been playing water polo since he was 11, when he entered a pickup game at Frick Park Pool.
Presto said he is a utility player, who “can pretty much play any position but goalie. I can guard a center defender, I can drive down.”
Santa Clara coach Johnny Bega appreciates Presto's versatility.
“Zach played the majority of each match as an all-around player,” Bega said via email. “He had to play on some of the toughest players from other teams. He averaged about 1.5 goals a match and was one of our strongest players.”
Presto was the only Pittsburgh-area player on the squad, but said he was comfortable and confident.
“Almost everyone on the team is going to a Division I school in water polo,” he said.
It was a squad that stood tall, mainly because it is. Presto measures 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, yet said he was “about average size.”
He is coming off a successful career at North Allegheny, the only Western Pennsylvania school with a water polo team. Presto was a first-team all-state honoree the past three years and second-team All-American as a senior, and helped lead the Tigers to a No. 3 finish in the state last fall.
On Tuesday, he left for Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., about 20 minutes from New York City. He is starting preseason practice for the Gaels, transitioning from a scholastic club sport to Division I program. Presto, who is considering a business-related major, wants to play as a freshman and, at some point, help to create a Gael storm.
“We'll try to compete with teams from California and get to the NCAA finals,” he said.
Rick Shrum is a freelance writer.