Montoya shines as natural leader in the water

Keely Jenkins

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Senior Charlotte Montoya had never played a season of water polo before her sophomore year, but that didn’t stop her from making the varsity team and eventually being selected as one of two team captains this year.

Montoya was selected to be team captain by coach Kirsten Frazer, who required the girls to email her a paragraph about why they thought they should be captain. Montoya was chosen because she stepped up as a leader during the 2014 season after the team’s former team captain was unable to be present at every practice and game due to other engagements, according to Frazer.

“Charlotte’s the kind of person who is a natural leader and she thrives in that leadership role, so it was just very fitting for her personality and her commitment to the team,” Frazer said.

Charlotte Montoya

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A swimmer, track and field thrower, former basketball player, and volleyball player, Montoya has played “almost every sport under the sun.” She began playing water polo after a shoulder injury, which impaired her ability to continue her volleyball career.

Montoya hadn’t considered joining water polo until her friend, Sophie Parker, recommended it to her.

According to Parker, though Montoya did not get much playing time her first year, she still got more than other players who had been playing for several years.

“In her first game she scored two goals, which was impressive,” Parker said.

The 2013 season was difficult for the entire team. According to Montoya, the overwhelming loss of senior players forced the coach to place sophomores as well as upperclassmen on the varsity team. At the end of the season, the team was 12th in a league of 13. 

Despite this, Montoya remained optimistic about the future, believing it was still an important year because it would allow the team to bond and build communication.

“She would comfort us and tell us it would be better the next time and then that next year we did way better than the year before. I think she had a lot to do with it,” Parker said. “She definitely shows a lot of emotional support for our whole team.”

In the 2014 season, the team ascended the rankings by placing sixth out of 13 teams, a significant improvement from the prior year.

According to Parker, Montoya’s leadership during the losses was very effective, and contributed to her supportive nature as a team captain.

During a recent loss in a tournament game, Montoya pulled the team aside to comfort the players. According to Parker, a lack of subs had caused the referee to end the game early, which disappointed the girls who had shown up wanting to play.

“It was terrible and half our team was crying,” Parker said. “She held a team meeting while we were in the pool without our coach, and told us no matter what our coach said, we needed to stay strong.”

Parker also praised Montoya’s selflessness, dedication, inclusiveness, and humor––she said these qualities make her a natural leader and easy to trust.

Frazer values Montoya’s ability to balance being friendly and firm with the team. Montoya, she claimed, was skilled at being the peer voice of the team.

“She puts in the time and she works really hard so they have a level of respect for her as their peer. They listen to her and that makes an effective captain,” Frazer said. “She helps motivate the team since there is a certain amount they listen to me, but I am somewhat like a parent to them so it’s sometime more effective if it comes from one of them.”

What did not come as innately as leadership was translating the skills from other sports to water polo. Montoya said that she struggled with combining ball handling and swimming, both skills she acquired from previous sports.

“The swimming came naturally and the ball handling came naturally, but putting the two together definitely took me time to really get it down,” Montoya said. “I am still working on it.”

Instead, her strengths lie in assisting shooters and defending the goal, which is a result of years of swimming and basketball, Montoya said. She considers basketball the sport that supported her defensive abilities, since it’s similar to guarding. Swimming, on the other hand, trained her to have the stamina to keep up with the other varsity water polo players.

Frazer, who has known Montoya for two years, commented that Montoya has evolved to become more confident in the pool and is able to predict where help is needed. This capability has helped make her a strong player as well as good leader, she said.

“I can yell from the pool deck, but you really need someone in the water who’s also a leader and I think she really developed that this year,” Frazer said. “What she did last year, leading them a little bit here and there, helped her have confidence to do it even more so this year.”

The girls’ water polo season ended on Tuesday, Oct. 28. The girls’ varsity team beat Tam, despite being the underdogs. After their win, the girls celebrated their victory―but not before Montoya made sure they each thanked and shook hands with the Tam team.