Girls’ water polo splashed into international waters

Audrey Lightfoot

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This summer, girls from the water polo team splashed into Croatian waters to play against international teams and explore the historically rich European country. This trip is only offered every other year for the girls at Redwood and is organized through a program called Water Polo Cruises. The team traveled around the islands of Croatia, acquiring authentic water polo experiences by scrimmaging clubs from around the world, as well as exploring the towns within Croatia.

Junior Larkin Stodolnic warms up before practice.

The girls’ journey began on July 21 and lasted an entire week. They began traveling by plane, but once they made it to Croatia they hopped on a boat where they would sleep, eat and live for the majority of the time. 

Many of the girls had been looking forward to the trip for a while, including junior and varsity player Larkin Stodolnic.

“As a freshman, all the upperclassmen had just come back from the trip and a lot of them were my friends. They all had very positive reactions to it and they were talking about it for the entire season. So, from the beginning, I was psyched about [the trip],” Stodolnic said.

The coaching staff in Croatia consisted of Redwood’s varsity girls’ water polo coach, Kirsten Frazer, as well as Ivan Vranjes and Mateo Juric from the Water Polo Cruises coaching staff. Vranjes and Juric are Croatian and played for their national team in the Olympics. Stodolnic thought that the coaching staff provided great advice and trained them well when preparing for scrimmages. 

“They were big on us perfecting the basics before we got into more things, which was good. They taught us a lot,” Stodolnic said.

In addition to Stodolnic, senior varsity player Cassidy Fragakis appreciated that the coaches were helpful throughout the whole week.

“It was mainly just about getting better at water polo. It was less focused on who we were playing and more focused on how we were playing. It was cool to learn from other teams and learn about the Croatians’ perspective on water polo,” Fragakis said.  

Although the visit was a fun getaway for the girls, coach Kirsten Frazer still had a jam-packed schedule for them full of practice, scrimmages, history and culture.

The girls water polo team crushes the competitors after playing a scrimmage against the local Croatian team.

“We would wake up and have breakfast while the boat was traveling to some little cove. Then we would have a practice, swim around a little island, or set up the water polo course and do some drills. After that we would have lunch as the boat moved to the harbor where we were going to dock,” Frazer said. “Once we got to the harbor, we would walk around and find something historical or cultural to experience. Then in the evening we would walk back to wherever the water polo club had their water polo course set up and we would warm up for our scrimmage against a local team.”  

Despite the busy schedule, the girls enjoyed their experience. Fragakis’s favorite part was building connections with new players from around the world. 

“I also loved meeting new people internationally. We played a Brazilian team and we were talking with them and we were also talking with the Croatians. We bonded a lot with kids from around the world,” Fragakis said.

Frazer loved this trip and hoped the girls had a good time. She wants to make sure they left with not only good technique, but memories that they will look back at fondly.

“Of course I want them to gain improved skills and get some conditioning it out of it, you know more practice is always better. But one thing I do is take their cell phones from them for the week so there is team bonding and I see girls who go and come back they have a good relationship with each other,” Frazer said. 

Stodolnic shared a similar sentiment with Frazer about the experience. While the trip was centered around their sport, traveling to Croatia meant much more than the international level of competition.

“Being in a different country and going to dinner with the team every night brought us beyond an athletic bond,” Stoldolnic said.