Sports Spotlight: Senior develops from novice to captain

Michael Benz

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“Jacqueline is a relentless force in the pool. She is fast and uses her speed to play strong defense, intercepting passes and getting a lot of steals,” said girls’ varsity water polo head coach Kirsten Frazer. “On offense, she uses her speed to counter attack hard and driving to create opportunities.”

Jacqueline is one of the best aquatic athletes in MCAL, and if it weren’t for a last minute decision the night before volleyball tryouts, senior Jacqueline Racich never would have tried water polo.

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Since that decision was made in her freshman year, she has earned a variety of water polo accolades.

She jumped over the JV team and made the varsity team as a freshman with no prior competitive experience. She won most improved on varsity that same year. She received an NCS Scholar Athlete award every year. She was named an Academic All-American, by playing in two national tournaments while maintaining a 3.6 GPA. And according to Frazer, she is among team leaders in goals and steals.

No stranger to competition, Racich played many different sports during her upbringing which sharpened her competitiveness.

She grew up swimming and playing baseball, softball and volleyball but had never tried competitive water polo.

Racich dabbled in youth sports such as baseball.

Racich dabbled in youth sports such as baseball.

In fact, it was her older brother and Redwood alumnus Jake Racich who suggested that she play the sport, which he also played during his time at Redwood.

“I picked [water polo] up and fell in love with it,” Jake said. “My sister followed a similar path years later.”

Before freshman year, Jacqueline hadn’t so much as thought about playing water polo competitively, even though she had swam almost her entire life.

“I’ve been swimming since I was four and I wanted to change it up,” she said. “Water polo adds in new components to swimming. It’s more team based and the contact element is a fun part of the game.”

Jacqueline spent a lot of time growing up in the water, either swimming on club teams, wakeboarding in Lake Tahoe or surfing at local beaches.

“Playing water polo was a perfect fit that would help translate to some of the other activities we do in the water,” Jake said.

So, when faced with the option of playing a sport on land or in the water, Jacqueline chose the latter.

And now this year, she is a captain of the Redwood water polo team, helping beginners understand how to play the sport.

“I hope I can help to teach the team because everyone has different levels of experience. I hope my experience can help me teach them through a teammate connection, which would be different than a coach connection,” Jacqueline said.

Frazer has seen Jacqueline develop from a novice to expert from freshman to senior year.

“Jacqueline is a very confident young lady. She is doing an excellent job leading the team in and out of the pool. She has grown into a leader that leads by example; she supports, listens and encourages all of her teammates,” Frazer said.

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For Jacqueline, she puts around three hours a day into water polo. And due to this work, she is quickly developing as a player, something that her brother has noticed.

“Other than improvements to her water polo skills, fundamentals, and shooting, she has really stepped up as a leader who can be relied on for communication and directing the team during games and practices,” Jake said.

Like many other sports, club teams make water polo into a year-round sport. Because of the extra work from club teams in the offseason, she has had exposure to many different coaches and teammates, all helping her create her play-style.

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“Jacqueline always works hard. In the off-season she gains valuable experience playing with a competitive club team,” Frazer said.

Her club coach played Division I water polo at University of the Pacific, playing at a level a lot of young players want to reach. Due to the long off-season, Jacqueline has learned a lot from club coaches like this.

“I play with my club coach, Sophie Waldron, year round. Redwood is only one season out of four, really,” she said.

Not only did her brother introduce her to the sport, but he now introduces her to new skills.

“My brother [influences my play-style] too, because we play together a lot and he’ll send me links to videos of people playing,” Jacqueline said.