After missing out last year on what was supposed to be his last hurrah due to the pandemic, Henry Grady (senior) said he decided to return to Occidental for his fourth and final season on the men’s water polo team.
Grady was recently named Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Men’s Water Polo Athlete of the Week. He was recognized for making 21 saves as the goalkeeper at the Aggie Roundup Tournament. Grady commended his teammates and said that the success was a team effort.
“The team worked really well defensively in the halfcourt,” Grady said. “It’s a team sport and it’s a collective effort to get stops, so it’s really a team award, not just for me.”
Head Coach Jack Stabenfeldt said Grady has excelled as a teammate while juggling other responsibilities.
“His communication provides confidence to our defense, and his passing creates flow for our offense,” Stabenfeldt said. “He’s been a great backbone for us so far — playing at a high level while balancing his role as captain, his job and his last semester on campus.”
The team participated in the Aggie Roundup Tournament in Davis, CA Sept. 17 and 18. According to friend and co-captain Cian Concannon (senior), their opponents were some of the toughest in the country, and Grady’s expertise facilitated their battle.
“Grady’s confidence in the cage builds trust between him and our teammates when we play defense,” Concannon said. “He came up with some massive stops, which has the ability to swing the entire momentum of the game.”
According to Grady, the team was content with their staggering 17-9 win against Fresno Pacific but is striving for more progress in their upcoming games.
“We have a lot of time to kind of get things right and get better,” Grady said. “We were definitely pleased with the result, but [there is] definitely a lot of room to improve.”
Grady looks forward to the upcoming games and said he has high expectations.
“Obviously making playoffs and playing games in late November and early December is the goal,” Grady said. “That’s kind of the sky — semi finals and then obviously the [Division 3] national championship.”
Grady, who has been a team captain for two years, said he would offer these words of advice to his first-year teammates.
“Just put your head down and work hard,” Grady said. “Be a sponge, try and learn every day, and take something away from every practice or game whether or not you’ve contributed.”
Estelle Harsh (first year) said it was the combination of athletics, academics and community that drew her to Occidental and its women’s volleyball team. She led the team in kills for the past week’s game against UC Santa Cruz and contributed to the victory over West Coast Baptist, which the team won in straight sets.
Teammate and captain Lizzy Kerman (junior) said Harsh has been an integral part of the team.
“These past few games have been a showcase of Estelle’s power as an offensive weapon as well as establishing her as a core player in our defensive line and serve receive game,” Kerman said.
Entering her first collegiate season, Harsh said the welcoming, friendly nature of her teammates has helped her adjust to this new stage in life and get through practices and games.
“So far, they have been an amazing asset in acclimating to not only being an athlete, but also just being a student athlete,” Harsh said.
According to Harsh, practicing mental strength is a big factor in their preparation for games. Harsh said she works on being the type of player she wants to be while having fun and staying focused.
“I think I definitely have been going out in each game just excited for the chance to play and really enjoying the moment as I’m playing,” Harsh said. “So when it’s game time, the game is the only thing I’m thinking about. School and social scenes are out of my head.”
According to teammate Liisa Halloran (junior), not only does Harsh’s athleticism make her a valuable teammate, but so does her positive attitude.
“Estelle really stands out as a source of positive energy on the court and a versatile player who does everything she can to help the team,” Halloran said. “She is always supportive and encouraging of everyone around her and brings such a light to the team.”
Balancing athletics and academics has been tough, but it has also helped her in developing more mental fortitude, Harsh said.
“I think mental toughness has been one of the biggest things I have improved on since coming to Occidental,” Harsh said. “Creating that mental toughness to show up every day and give your best and then still go home and study and do it all over again takes a lot of work.”
With a packed season of conference games still to come, Harsh said she hopes to keep strengthening teammate dynamics and giving it her all.
“I hope to continue building our team chemistry, working out the little kinks that we’ve come across so far,” Harsh said. “Continue to play our hardest every game, create a space that is really fun to come and watch and just finish the season knowing that we gave it our all.”
Contact Vivian Ko at email@example.com.