Female Athlete Profile: Kate Hirsch, Water Polo

November 17, 2022


Kate Hirsch

Hirsch rushes to get the ball live after a foul. Photo courtesy of Kate Hirsch

Making a varsity team as an underclassman, especially as a freshman, is an uncommon accomplishment; however, freshman Kate Hirsch has done so this year. Hirsch plays varsity water polo for Menlo despite only recently having begun playing the sport. 

Hirsch first played club water polo for Stanford Water Polo Club last year and fell in love with the sport. For her, water polo balances intensity with team connection really well. “It’s a competitive sport, but it’s still very much a team sport,” she said. This dynamic has helped her develop her skills, as she has gotten the chance to learn from so many of her more experienced teammates. 

This fall, with Menlo water polo, Hirsch has experienced that dynamic even more. She is grateful that she got to come into Menlo with a community of girls her age, as well as meet older teammates before school even started. Fall sports start tryouts and practice before the first day of school, and water polo was no different with their first practice on Aug. 15. “I like how there is a community on the team and, especially as an incoming freshman, I was able to get to know people in different grades before school started and already have that support,” Hirsch said.

Making varsity was not something Hirsch necessarily expected, as she only recently began playing the sport. “It all happened fast, and it’s been really nice since then being able to practice full time with [a team of] mostly upperclassmen, so I’m having older people that I can learn from and have so much experience [with water polo].”

Despite the excitement of making varsity and the chance to learn at a higher level, not everything about her experience on the team has been positive. “People seem to be more shocked to find out if a girl freshman is on varsity, and I’ve seen my friends get [similar reactions] too.” Otherwise, Hirsch has felt generally empowered as a female athlete throughout her time playing water polo, both for Menlo and for Stanford Water Polo Club. 

Last club season, Hirsch’s coach brought her team to a scrimmage-based tournament where they got to play co-ed and all-boys teams. “It was really clear that [our coach] wasn’t only trying to get us to play better competition, but also just trying to get us to see ourselves as able to compete,” Hirsch said. She was really grateful for that opportunity because it showed her and her team that sometimes the playing field may not always be 100% even, but that her team can still come together and win games that they may not be expected to win. 

Tournaments like that one and the annual Junior Olympics national tournament at the end of July are some of her favorite memories in the sport. “You get to showcase all of the work you put in and you’re so close with your team because you’ve been training with them all summer,” she said. 

Hirsch plans to continue playing water polo, but is focusing on short term goals for now because she is new to the sport. “I’m [looking forward to] learning both life skills and sports skills from [water polo] throughout high school.”

She does, however, have sport-specific goals with her team for how she would like to finish out her freshman season. The team finished league play in second place, after coming into the West Catholic Athletic League tournament as the third seed due to their regular season losses against Sacred Heart and Saint Francis. Beating Saint Francis in the post-season was one of Hirsch’s major goals. “Being able to pull off a win against Saint Francis would be fun,” she said before their game. Besides WCAL redemption against Saint Francis, which the girls were able to pull off, Hirsch wanted to get as far into the Central Coast Section playoffs as they could before closing the door on her freshman season. 

Girls’ water polo did not make it past round one of the CCS playoffs this year, but still had an incredible season. They fell to Los Gatos in the CCS Semi-Finals 11-7. However, before CCS even began, they made a landmark statement in the WCAL playoffs, knocking off St. Francis in order to compete for the WCAL title. This was their first win against St. Francis in 15 years and was also the first time in program history that Menlo girls’ water polo has been in a WCAL final. Hirsch and her team finished a very successful season at 18-8 and she is ready to come back for more next season.

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About the Writer
Photo of Annie Stent
Annie Stent, Copy Editor

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 3

Favorite aspect of journalism: writing stories on topics I’m passionate about

Interests outside of school: volleyball, spending time with friends and family, walking my dogs

Class of 2023

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