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Santa Maria Sun / Athlete of the Week

The following article was posted on October 22nd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 33 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 33

Frank Lopez

Santa Maria High School water polo

BY AMY ASMAN


FRANK LOPEZ
PHOTO BY AMY ASMAN

It’s not often that a freshman is cherry-picked from a club water polo program to play goalie for a varsity high school team, but that’s exactly what happened with Frank Lopez.

When the former goalie graduated last year, Santa Maria High School’s varsity water polo coach Antonio McNeil started scouting for new talent. There were a couple of boys on junior varsity McNeil had his eye on, but Lopez proved to be the most experienced.

“It’s been really great having a solid goalie coming from a club program [on the team],” McNeil said. “The goalie’s got to be one of the most athletic kids on the team, and one of the smartest, too.”

He said goalie is a “fast-twitch position” that requires a quick reaction time—a skill Lopez has in aces.

“He’s been making steals … and feeding direct passes to shooters on the team, which is very rare for a freshman,” McNeil said.

Playing the position of goalie seems to come naturally to Lopez.

“It’s about good positioning and knowing where they’re going to shoot,” he said.

So how does Lopez know where his opponents are going to aim the ball?

“They give little signs,” he said. “Some people look at a certain corner of the cage, but they try to hide it by looking away.”

Lopez said he enjoys water polo—this is his third year in the pool—because of the sport’s level of difficulty and the amount of teamwork it takes to be successful.

He said his goal for the year is to help the Saints “work together better as a team.” He’s also good at recruiting new players.

“People should just try water polo,” Lopez said. “Most people don’t know the sport, but it’s really fun once you get the hang of it.”

Coach McNeil said he expects his player to become even more of a force on the team.

“It can be difficult to emerge as a leader so early on,” McNeil said, adding that he’s teaching Lopez about communication skills in and out of the pool.

He’s confident the freshman has the talent and the drive to carry the young team, which has only two senior players.

“He’s been a huge contribution to the team this year,” McNeil said. “He came into a good program where he can develop with us. … It’ll be nice having him around for so long.”