Boys water polo reaching new heights entering postseason

Shrija Shandilya | The Chronicle

Photo by Shrija Shandilya
The Mason boys’ water polo team is the second seed in the Ohio Water Polo Association state tournament, and begins their tournament run on October 22.

The Mason boys’ water polo team is entering uncharted waters during its most successful season ever.

The team recently placed second at the Ohio Cup, its highest finish ever, and is the second seed in the upcoming Ohio Water Polo Association (OWPA) state tournament.

Senior Andrei Khudiakov attributes the team’s success to their increased intensity during training, including implementing an offseason strength and conditioning program.

“We’ve seen a strength training program develop for the offseason,” Khudiakov said. “There’s also been a lot more care and thought put into every practice.”

Khudiakov has noticed more players buying into the program and turning the sport into a passion, including an uptick in players playing the sport year-round.

“There used to be only a couple people who were good because they were the only ones who really cared, but coaches have brought this idea that everyone does matter,”  Khudiakov said. “This has led to a lot of new people finding more of a passion for the sport and they get a lot better. ”

He said that this improvement has led to the development of a solid second line on the team and this will help in the future of the program.

“This year we have a lot more of a secondary level to our team and that’s brought a lot of success,” Khudiakov said. “We also have an increase in recruitment and I think this program is going to take off in the next couple years.”

Photo by Savannah Libby
Senior Andrei Khudiakov looks to make a pass.

Khudiakov has been on the varsity team since his freshman year. A strong senior class has grown together into an experienced unit. Khudiakov said the group reinforces a competitive spirit throughout the team, and has created a tight-knit group.

“We’ve gotten closer as an entire team,” Khudiakov said. “When you know people and you think of them more as friends, you really don’t want to let them down.”

Khudiakov said the team is working towards an ultimate goal of a state championship, but is just as focused on building up the team’s culture and reputation so they can sustain the success in future seasons.

“The hope this year is to win states,” Khudiakov said. “Going forward, I hope to see a lot of really strong players develop and the program continue to build the championship pedigree that the coaches want.”

In 2022, Adam Livingston and Arija Walsh were hired as the new head coaches for the boys and girls’ teams within the program. Senior Ryan Roth said the new regime has changed the culture and helped him and his teammates improve their skills, and improved their drive to win.

“It used to be something you would do for fun,” Roth said, “Our coach gives us so much confidence and you can see they put their heart and soul into the program.”

Roth said the greatest strength of the team is their camaraderie, which has allowed them to work cohesively as a team.

“It’s like you know what the other person is about to do in the game,” Roth said. “Having this mental thing has helped us a lot.”

Photo by Savannah Libby
Senior goalkeeper Ryan Roth looks to pass after making a save.

Roth cited their game against Upper Arlington in the Ohio Cup as a major turning point for the team. At the end of the first quarter the team was down, and the players rallied for a comeback victory.  

“We had our coach speeches obviously, but then players also started to say something to each other,” Roth said. “We said that we deserve to win this because of all the work we’ve put in together and it triggered something in everyone because we went on to win by 6.”

The team’s culture shift has motivated several players to gain interest in coaching. Roth said he and other seniors want to continue helping the program grow after they graduate.

“It’s definitely a program we love and enjoy and we want to see it continue to thrive,” said Roth.