Water polo cruises to Croatia

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Junior Jackson Chou looks out onto the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

Annie Forsman

Over the summer, a group of Redwood athletes got to experience the trip of a lifetime — traveling to Europe with their teammates to compete in the Adriatic Sea.

“It was a cove with high rock cliffs all around, and the pool was set up next to a concrete pier, where you could jump in from and you could see out into the open ocean. It was pretty cool,” said varsity water polo starter and senior Abe Massik.

Fourteen of the Redwood boys water polo players traveled to Croatia with their coach and families from Aug. 9 to 16 to train for the upcoming season.

Rudy Kardos, the boys’ water polo coach, put the trip together through a startup business called Water Polo Cruise that promised a unique and high quality boat cruise and water polo experience for seven days and eight nights.

Cruise owners Ivan Vranjes and Mateo Juric set up a full week of training from former Croatian Olympic and National Team players and coaches, while anchoring on different islands along the Adriatic Sea each morning.

“They were putting together this water polo cruise that was basically a perfect way for the team to bond because instead of living in a hotel somewhere, we were actually on a boat together most of the day,” Kardos said.

Massik said that this season will be Redwood’s best yet, which helps to explain Kardos motivation for organizing the trip, which focused on refining and molding his team together.

“It gave a lot of us a new perspective because European water polo is a lot different than it is in the US,” Massik said. “Some of the drills we picked up were pretty useful, and I think my coach is going to use them during the year.”

The Croatian men’s National Water Polo team won gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics in England, which is part of the reason the team chose Croatia as their destination.

“Croatia is one of the few countries where they have open water polo league. Their pools are set up basically out in the ocean, with buoys that are anchored up,” Kardos said.

Since most of the players play off-season on club teams, Kardos used the trip as a way to get the athletes back to the pool as a team.

“We went from place to place and played and practiced in the different local pools,” Kardos said. “There was a little bit of a vacation part of it where kids could go and walk around a few hours a day to explore the local cities and history. And then we had a twice-a-day workout in an ocean.”

The boys got the honor of playing against a local team coached by Dubravko Šimenc, a Michael Jordan equivalent in the world of water polo.

“He actually jumped in, so a couple of our players get to say that they played against Dubravko Šimec, who in his days was on a Croatian national team. When he had the ball he was known to score from almost any shot,” Kardos said. “We had a chance to meet and interact with some good class athletes.”

Massik said that the trip confirmed who the rightful starters and most important players on the Redwood team are.

According to Coach Kardos, the team is unique and has greater potential and talent than previous teams that he has coached.

“Talent is just one part of the equation, the question is what the kids will do with it,” Kardos said. “You can be the most talented player, but if you are sitting at home playing computer games or chasing some parties instead of working out, then it’s not going to help you too much.”

The main purpose of the trip was to gain new tools to practice and build a team with.

Varsity’s goal this year is to make it to MCALs and the NCS Division III championship game again, but this time around, they hope to perform better than last year at NCS and potentially win.