Senior hole defender Ashley Lamar bursts up out of the water to block her opponent’s shot. Afterward, she instinctively launches the ball to senior hole set Caitlin Donnelly. The ball splashes in front of Donnelly’s fingers, before she shoots the ball straight into the back of the net. This has become the routine for Lamar and Donnelly, co-captains of the girls’ varsity water polo team.
“It’s just really easy for us to play off of each other because we are opposite positions: she plays hole set and I play hole defense, so we’re very competitive with each other. We push each other really hard,” Lamar said.
In water polo, the hole set acts as the key offender who mainly scores the goals. On the other hand, the hole defender is the player responsible for marking the opponent’s hole set, making her the leading defender. In order for the team to be successful, having strong players in both of these positions is crucial.
From morning workouts during the summer with their club team, Sleepy Hollow Aquatics, to two-hour practices for Redwood five days a week in the fall, Lamar and Donnelly have built a strong bond in the pool. Being such close friends and teammates allows them to lead the team as co-captains in a more coherent way. They’re able to translate their knowledge of the game of water polo into their leadership role on the team.
“We care about the sport. We put in the work for the sport. We are working outside of it when we don’t have a practice. I have been playing the sport for a long time, Ashley has been playing for a long time now [and] we both care a lot,” Donnelly said.
Although each has a different background when it comes to time spent playing water polo, none of it matters when they enter into the pool.
Donnelly has been swimming her whole life, but began playing water polo when her older brother started when she was in fifth grade. The minute she entered the pool and made her first goal, she was hooked on the sport. Throughout her four-year varsity career, she scored 103 goals and had 55 assists putting her at a total of 155 points, according to MaxPreps.
As for Lamar, she began playing water polo as a freshman, but has never been on a swim team. She was brought onto the pool deck by her stepsister, who claimed that she would love the sport and the team. Taking her word for it, Lamar tried out. Later in the season, she was pulled up to varsity and ever since then, she has been a leader of the team. Lamar ended the season being the leader in assists with 26 and scored 23 goals overall, according to Maxpreps.
“I like how much teamwork [water polo] involves. If not every single person on your team has focus and has their head in game then the team doesn’t do well,” Lamar said.
As soon as Lamar became a varsity player, the bond between her and Donnelly began to form.
“Before every game we always go up to each other and hype each other up. We say, ‘Okay let’s go. Me and you. Let’s do this,’ because we know that we lead the team in a way that others don’t or haven’t in the past years because we really communicate a lot with each other and the team,” Lamar said.
According to varsity coach Kirsten Frazer, the two are the ideal team leaders because they both have a strong work ethic and are willing to put in whatever is necessary for the success of their team. Also, they have the knowledge and respect for the game that allows them to effectively lead the rest of the team.
“They are team players and they understand that they can’t do it alone. They are also in the water helping their teammates and helping them improve because they realize that it takes all of them,” Frazer said.
Although their season recently came to an end on Nov. 2 after they lost their away game to Monte Vista 4-12, Donnelly and Lamar went into the game hoping to make the most of what could potentially be their last game wearing a Redwood uniform.