By Gary Curreri
In a little more than six months, Pompano Beach’s Samantha Finazzo has found a sport she loves.
Finazzo, 15, who will enter her sophomore year at Pompano Beach High School next month, joined the newly-formed Pompano Beach Piranhas water polo program and it has been an enjoyable experience.
“This was a lot of fun,” said Finazzo, who plays goalie for the Girls 18-Under team. “It was a good experience to meet new people and get a variety of players and teams we were playing against.
“I expected it to be a lot harder, but I improved my skills over the past couple of months and it came a lot easier than I thought it would be,” she said. “I just wanted to become a better overall athlete. It wasn’t anything that I expected. It was really fun and I loved it.”
The Pompano Beach Piranhas made their club water polo debut in the Sunshine State Games recently at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Both teams played in the 18-Under Division. The boys went 1-3, while the girls were winless in four games.
Teammate Christine Bergamini, 17, of Lighthouse Point, is normally a swimmer, but has found water polo to be more enjoyable.
“I like water polo because it is a team sport,” said Bergamini, who will be a senior at Cardinal Gibbons. “The difference is you have to think more about how you are going to swim or who you are going to pass to. It’s been a lot of fun. Even though we lost, I learned a lot. I think we definitely improved each game.”
Pompano Beach coach Scott Moore used to coach in the 1990s and early 2000s, but took some time off. He returned to the pool deck when his son started playing water polo in high school and was looking for a team to play on.
“They have been playing a month together and we had a great time,” Moore said. “We have a set of twins, Victoria and Alicja Zielinski, and triplets — Megan, Brooke and Kelly Gest — on the girls team, so that makes it interesting. The Zielinski’s attend Northeast High School, while the Guess girls attend Cardinal Gibbons.
“This is new to me,” said Victoria Zielinski, 16, of Oakland Park. “I have never played club before. I have only played high school, so it is good to experience other high school people on a team together. Hopefully, we can do great things together. I knew some of the other water polo players, so I knew that if we all worked together that we would click. It was good getting new water polo players too.”
Zielinski, who will be a junior at Northeast next month, said water polo is a lot different than swimming. She’s played the sport for two years.
“It is totally different than an individual sport like swimming,” she said. “There is a lot of adrenaline getting into you. It is a lot of fun. There are girls trying to attack you and you are trying to get away and shoot.”
Zielinski said playing in the Sunshine State Games was a lot of pressure.
“I have never played two games in one day or four games in a weekend,” Zielinski said. “We only play once or twice a week in high school. I have only played with this team for two weeks, so there was a lot of pressure going in from not playing water polo in a month or so (since high school season ended).”
Her sister, Alicja, agreed: “The girls here are more intense than high school. I pretty much know most of the girls from high school. They are pretty friendly and it is a good team environment.”
Alicja is more of the swimmer and Victoria is the water polo player. Alicja competed in the 100-yard breaststroke at the state meet and finished 24th.
“It is fun to play with her,” Alicja said. “We just have to find each other and yell, ‘twin.’ I would like to play water polo in high school and then maybe college.”