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Sophomore Shot This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Being on a varsity team is tough, but being a sophomore on varsity is even tougher. I’ve been around water polo for six years, but when I got into the cool, shimmering waters for the match that would decide the league championship, for some reason I felt as though I had forgotten how to swim.
At the beginning of the third quarter, the coach signals me to go in. Two of our players have been red-flagged (out for the rest of the game) and two others are close to that fate. The score is six to four, with our team clinging to the lead. Needless to say, I am quite nervous. Our coach uncaps his marker, for a second its scent overpowers the smell of chlorine, and begins to draw out a play. I strain to hear him above the roar of the rushing water spilling over the gutters. He recaps the marker, then we all lean in and yell, “Dawgs on three - one, two, three dawgs!” And we quickly swim to our starting positions.
Anxiously awaiting the start of the quarter, I try to calm myself, while at the same time talk myself up. You practice with the best team in the league - there is nothing to worry about. There’s a reason you’re on varsity. It’s because you can hang with these guys.
The official, dressed in white, walks to the edge of the pool holding the gold-colored ball. He puts the whistle to his mouth and, taking a quick glance at the scoreboard, I realize how close this game is. I wait, tensely coiled and ready to fly like an unleashed spring. The official blows the whistle and the shrill tone rockets past my ears; I push off the wall with all my force. The next seven minutes will be nonstop adrenaline and movement. We win the sprint and have possession of the ball.
I race to my position and struggle to get open for a pass. I finally get free and then wait for the ball. Do I want the ball? I wonder. Of course you want the ball, the confident side of me bursts back. However, the timid side squeaks out, You might make a mistake. I go with my more confident side and put up my outstretched hand as a signal to pass. The ball flies toward me, crystal clear droplets streaming off it, right to my awaiting fingers.
I check the shot clock - 10 seconds left - and my defender is still not guarding me, so I decide to shoot. A glance at the goal shows an opportunity. I’m not nervous, due to innumerable hours of training; I go through the motions almost subconsciously. I fiercely tread water, lifting my body above the surface, and then hurl the sphere with all my might toward the top right corner of the goal. My defender tries to put up a hand, but in vain. The goalie stretches out almost horizontally to block the ball. I can see the strain in his face, neck, and arms, but it too is in vain. The loose net in the back of the goal is already enveloping the ball.
The remainder of the match goes great, and by the end my nerves have finally settled and I score another goal. As we shake our opponents’ hands, the scoreboard shows the final score: nine to six. The dawgs came out on top. Maybe next time they will see my sophomore shot as a real threat.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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