Undefeated Lady Patriots Water Polo team gears up for playoffs
In only their second season of UIL competition, The Mission Veterans Lady Patriots Water Polo team are undefeated district champions. Their success is a testament to the foresight and support of community members eager to assist students by giving them alternatives to develop and showcase their skills. It’s a byproduct of hard work from a diverse group of dedicated student-athletes internalizing a shared vision of excellence. Most importantly, it’s a story that shows us what’s possible when grit and belief merge around one team in one perfect moment.
The water polo story in Mission CISD began in the late 1990s at Mission High School. It was there that students and now head swimming and diving coaches Melissa Reyna (Mission Veterans), David Colunga (Mission High School), and Johnathan Landero (PSJA High School) met and competed on the Eagles’ swim team. Years later, in 2013, while working with Coach Landero in PSJA ISD, Coach Reyna supported him in bringing water polo to that district. The Mission program began as a consolidated program amongst the two Mission CISD high schools through the Texas Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association, TISCA. Last year, the teams separated and began competition in The University Interscholastic League, UIL. This development was only possible with administrative support and the vision of coach Reyna and her friend coach Landero. “Coach Landero really took a deep dive into the sport. And I just dove right in with him,” said Reyna.
But taking that plunge into the unknown was not without challenges. Time and recruitment were key issues that gave cause for concern. “Our main concern was time….. as we’re recruiting kids they’re also graduating. So we have to re-teach the whole sport to a new group that doesn’t get to learn the sport until they’re freshmen. It’s not introduced at the elementary or junior highs. We get them fresh. And trying to get kids to try something brand new that they don’t know if they’re going to be good at or not is pretty difficult,” Reyna said when asked about the difficulties associated with starting the program
Issues and the complications surrounding funding, scheduling, and equipping a water polo team also made the endeavor challenging. Those challenges piled up before addressing the most obvious: How do you teach team concepts to student-athletes who’ve never participated in team sports by playing a water sport incorporating ideas from basketball, soccer, and rugby?
“On our boys’ side, we had boys starting with floaties. Floaties around their waste to learn the sport… We were like, “Ok, we’re strapping on floaties really quick, and as soon as you get used to it, we’ll take off the floaties,” Reyna said. Now, both teams have soccer, basketball, softball, volleyball, baseball, and former football players on the roster, along with competent swimmers. Water Polo is the perfect sport for multisport athletes because it utilizes different muscle groups, allowing students to rehab and get in shape for spring sports.
Multisport athletes who have contributed to the team success of the ladies’ water polo team include 2022-2023 District MVP Goalie Monika Regalado (11th), who plays varsity volleyball; 2022-2023 Co-District MVP Sarah Garcia (12th) is a swimmer and lieutenant on the dance team. Jasmine Ramirez (10th) plays volleyball and soccer. The students juggle multiple sports, maintaining a standard of excellence in matches and the classroom. Regalado is a 4.0 dual enrollment student on track to receive an associate degree next year. Garcia is in the Top 7% of her class, and Jasmine is in the Top 10%. Despite displaying greatness inside and outside the pool, some disadvantages still exist against the girls. Water polo is new to Mission CISD, and other programs have had more time to cultivate water polo athletes and teams. But that doesn’t phase Reyna. “I really don’t care what the score is as long as they’ve given me everything they have. We may not be the best team out there, but we’ll be the team that fights the hardest,” Reyna said.
The Lady Patriots’ resilience powered them to right last year’s wrongs. Their goal last year was to win the district, but a loss to Mission High caused them to split the title. This year, they acknowledged their shortcomings and charted a new path: undefeated district champions. The Lady Patriots achieved that goal with a 15-7 win over the Lady Eagles on Monday night. Possible rematches against the PSJA Memorial Wolverines and San Antonio Holmes Huskies await them in their playoff bracket. While that may seem daunting, their focus is on the present. “Now we’re just taking it one game at a time,” Reyna said.
Most coaches’ immediate and long-term goals always include winning. But for Reyna, there are more important things than winning. Building a program based on core principles taught to her by her own coaches is her focus. “We want to continue that positive, competitive, hardworking culture we’re establishing. Yes, we want our kids to be great athletes, but we also want them to be great people,” Reyna said.
1. Monika Regalado 11th
2. Itzel Garcia 10th
3. Amaris Trevino 10th
4. Celeste Aguirre 9th
5. Maria Mendoza 11th
6. Angelica Arizpe 10th
7. Vivian Salinas 11th
8. Sarah Garcia 12th
9. Ashley Adame 12th
10. Itzel De Leon 10th
11. Andrea Salgado 9th
12. Jasmine Ramirez 10th