Reaching goals both inside and outside of the pool, tenth-grader Juliana Hernandez has the opportunity to play water polo for Venice High School during the team’s first ever season. Hernandez has been playing water polo for approximately one year. Although the spring season is the inaugural season of Venice Water Polo, she previously played for Suncoast Water Polo.
Despite having no past family members play the sport, Hernandez initially started playing for Suncoast Water Polo after it was recommended to her by her friend and neighbor, who also played for the team. Eventually, after being encouraged by additional friends who also played water polo, Hernandez made the switch to Venice High School Water Polo. The Venice team is coached by Jon Baca who also coaches for Suncoast Water Polo.
While capable of playing multiple positions, Hernandez, for the majority of matches, plays the “hole-set” position. The main goal of the hole-set position is to score goals for the team as it is positioned directly in front of the opposing team’s goal. “I personally think hole-set is fun because it’s very challenging. You’re close to the goal and pretty much wrestling the hole-guard that tries to stop you from scoring the goal,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has made many new friends through the Venice High School team. “I knew a few friends on the team before I joined, but I met so many other people after joining the team,” she said.
While Hernandez has multiple experiences which she considers her favorite memories, her absolute favorite was her first overnight tournament. “We stayed overnight, and we did a bunch of really weird stuff and played a bunch of games,” she said.
Recently, the team held a home tournament at Venice High, where they played against a team from Gainesville. The team set up the pool for the matches, played games with each other and put up welcoming posters for the other team to see when they arrived.
The team practices at Venice High after school every day from 3:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. For half of the practice, they perform drills while the other half is devoted to scrimmage, or practice games in which teammates play against each other.
“Juliana has an arm like a cannon and is not afraid to shoot at even the toughest goalies. She is constantly working to improve her shots and spins,” teammate and fellow Pine View ninth-grader Amelia Baca said. “Juliana is one of the star players of the Venice High School water polo team.”
Hernandez plans on continuing to play water polo throughout college and as a hobby following college. “I love it so much. It keeps me fit, and it gives me a chance to meet brand new people,” she said. “As the season progresses, we all become one big, loving family.”