The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Ava Smith dives into varsity water polo season

Courtesy Ava Smith
Ava (right) poses for a picture with her water polo teammates.

Freshman Ava Smith’s morning routine has been somewhat unchanged for the past two years: Wake up, eat a bagel for breakfast and get ready for water polo practice. For Ava, consistency is key: It landed her the role as the sole freshman on the varsity girls water polo team. 

Freshman Ava Smith huddles with the varsity girls water polo team before a match. (Courtesy Ava Smith)

Initially a swimmer, Ava first started playing water polo for the NorCal Aquatics Water Polo Club in seventh grade, where she instantly fell in love with the sport. Water polo is a sport known for intensity and unpredictability, something Ava loved.

“Honestly, I just started to try something new,” Ava said.

After two years of testing the waters with water polo, entering her freshman year, it soon became her main sport, leading her to try out for the JV team with many of her club teammates. After just two hours of watching Ava play, the coaches soon moved her up to varsity tryouts where she earned her spot as number 13. 

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Head Coach Katie Tasman affirmed Ava’s discipline towards the sport. During tryouts, Ava was promoted not only due to her understanding of the game but also her “phenomenal work ethic,” according to Tasman.

“Ava is the type of athlete that coaches dream of getting,” Tasman said. “With her calm and positive demeanor in the water, she has been someone we have looked to time and time again in close matches.”

Being on the varsity team came with a demanding schedule. Ava committed herself to about 15 hours a week of practice, conditioning and games on top of her schoolwork and navigating the transition from middle school to high school. Ava described her life as nothing more than studying and playing water polo. 

“My mom wants me to get a bigger social life,” Ava said, laughing. “So, we are on the way. Slow steps.”

In addition to a demanding schedule, Ava — as the only freshman on the team — completed all of the grunt work. 

Ava is the type of athlete that coaches dream of getting.

— Head Coach Katie Tasman

“You have to tie in the lane lines and get dressed when nobody else has to get dressed,” Ava said. “And then you have to carry the balls and the caps to the bus.” 

Freshman Alison Han has played with Ava at NorCal for two seasons and shares the same sentiment. 

“She wants to get better more than most people,” Alison said. “That’s why she got so good, even though she’s only played for three years.”

Tasman also acknowledges Ava’s skillful contributions to the team.  

“Ava has brought a huge presence in the cage at the 2-meter position and embraced her role as a shooter from the outside this season,” Tasman said. “She keeps her composure in high-stress situations in games and doesn’t allow mistakes to interfere with the next play.”

“She’s coachable; it’s one of her biggest strengths,” Alison said. 

Freshman Katelyn Yee, who has also played with her for about two years, highlighted Ava’s appreciation for water polo.

“She’s a strong player because of how much she loves the sport,” Katelyn said. “You could see her passion shining through.” 

While water polo didn’t initially fit Ava’s initial definition of structure, today, the sport helps her decompress after a stressful day and improves her mood. 

After all, Ava still gets her morning bagel, just after a 6 a.m. practice. 

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