Done is the debut — and it was well worth the wait.
Now into its second season of existence, the Venice High girls water polo team made its long-awaited home debut Thursday. The occasion was a rousing success.
In front of a crowd of better than three dozen, the Indians made easy work of district opponent Freedom High (Orlando), 19-5.
The Indians record advanced to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in district play. After playing as an independent last season, this is the Indians’ first year playing a district schedule.
The Indians have already qualified for the district tournament. They will compete as the No. 2 seed in the Class 1A District 6 tournament at Highland Prep in Orlando from April 6-9.
Tessa Bohn, who is committed to the United States Naval Academy on a volleyball scholarship, led Venice with eight goals. She scored six of them in the opening quarter. Bohn scored the first-ever Venice High water polo goal at home – with 4:27 left in the opening period.
“It’s very exciting to play in the home pool that you practice in every day,” Bohn said.
Remarkably enough, she was only a novice swimmer just last fall.
“I knew the basics of swimming, but knew nothing about competitive swimming at this level,” added Bohn. “I’ve caught on pretty fast and I love it. It’s so much fun.”
Though only a sophomore, Amelia Baca is a veteran of the game. The hard-throwing hole-set player (like an offensive center) added three goals and six assists while playing mostly on the wing.
“We’re training other girls to play different positions, so I was on the wing today,” Baca said.
After the first seven-minute period was over, Venice had seized a 7-0 lead. Beyond Bohn’s six scores, Jade Hulme added the Indians’ second tally.
Anya Kratz added a pair of net flexors in the second as the Indians upped their advantage to 11-3.
The score reached 15-3 after three quarters when Bohn tallied her seventh. Madison Studt-Campbell added another.
Bohn’s eighth and final goal opened the final seven minutes.
“We started the season with six girls and we put out a lot of PR to recruit more girls,” coach Beth Bailey said. “Now we have 14 on our roster. Now, these are mostly freshmen and sophomores, aside from a couple of seniors and one junior.
“These girls work hard. A lot of them are new to the sport. For two of the girls, this was their first game ever.”
Bailey was instrumental in bringing water polo – both boys and girls teams — to Venice High. The program is completely self-funded with the help of the Southwest Florida Water Polo Foundation.
The Foundation’s biggest goal is to help fund another area team. That would allow the Indians to form a local district and reduce travel.
“Our budget is small. We do all our own fundraising,” Bailey said. “All we want to do now is take the girls out to play tournaments. That’s how they get better. That’s how we grow.”
Prior to the district tournament, Venice will attend the Ransom Everglades Invitational in Orlando on April 5-6.