ESTEVAN - Three alumni of the Estevan Sharks water polo program were in Montreal late last month for a camp that gave them a chance to showcase their abilities, and to be selected for a national camp.
Twin sisters Josephina and Alexandra Hlohovsky Andrist, along with Mikayla Hack, were in Montreal from Nov. 21-29. It was a selection camp to determine who would represent Canada at the Youth Pan-American Championships that were to be held in Bauru, Brazil, from Jan. 9-16, 2022.
Josephina Hlohovsky Andrist referred to it as the best water polo experience she has had, and she has been on quite a few trips, including one to Europe through the sport. But for this one, she was raving about the swimming, the atmosphere and the facility.
Seventy-five athletes were chosen for the camp.
“Everyone was as good as you or better, so it had that element of competition in the camp setting,” said Josephina.
The Montreal camp was game-based, she said. The first three mornings, from Nov. 22-24, had practices, and the rest of the time was focused on games and scrimmages.
“Your team switched every day, you got a new coach, and you learned with that coach every day,” said Josephina.
A game in the morning of Nov. 24 was likely the best she played.
Six coaches from across the Canada and some co-ordinators from across the country were terrific, she said.
Hack, who moved from Estevan to Regina 2 1/2 years ago, said it was a great opportunity, and they were able to learn from some Olympians.
“They got to teach us a lot about what they know and we had a bunch of diverse coaches there, who all had different methods of teaching, and different things they wanted us to focus on, so there were a lot of learning opportunities there, which I enjoyed,” said Hack.
The camp gave her more confidence in her shooting ability. A lot of the plays that were run forced her to shoot, and she scored a lot of goals.
“I don’t shoot a lot, and this camp gave me a bunch of opportunities to show that I have the skills to shoot,” said Hack.
Alex Hlohovsky Andrist said the camp was a very, very good opportunity to meet people she would have never encountered. The training was really good, and it was wonderful to have a week just focused on water polo.
“I’ve been to smaller scale camps, but nothing was week long. We’ve been to evening camps, and pretty much everyone has been to at least a camp for a weekend,” said Alex.
She believes she is a better player because of the camp.
“It was cool to play with people who are my skill level or above, and who know how to play and are as good as me, and who I never played with before, either,” said Andrist.
Alexandra and Hack were two of three athletes from the province who were selected to attend the camp by the coach of Team Saskatchewan, to try out for the senior team. But there was also a chance to make the junior team. Josie wasn’t one of those three, but the Team Canada coach saw Josephina play at the most recent Sask. Open tournament from Nov. 11-14 and knew that she belonged at the camp as well.
The tournament has been pushed back to next spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hlohovsky Andrist sisters and Hack were among the five Saskatchewan athletes chosen, while former Estevan resident Cameron Gillingham was named an alternate for the junior male squad.
Still, the three young women were thrilled to be selected, and they hope they’ll get to compete for Team Canada at some point.
“We all worked really hard for it, and it was nice to be recognized to go … and nice to know that you were seen and all your hard work paid off,” said Josephina.
“Being selected for the national team shows that it’s great it wasn’t my only opportunity to go to senior camp, it was also to help me go to the junior national team,” added Hack.
“A lot of the Sask. girls are really, really good, so I was expecting at least some of us to make it, maybe not all of us, but I was really, really excited to get picked,” said Alexandra.
All three remain grateful to the Estevan Sharks for the contributions of the club to their development.
“They’re my first club. They’re the people who showed me what water polo is and how good I was at it, and they gave me the first tools to learn to play,” said Josephina.
When she told people from outside of the province she was in Estevan, they had no idea where it was.
Hack said it’s great to see the club continue to attract new members and to have strong coaches.
“Everyone who ever played with us, they always helped me improve, even if they were older people who were there,” said Hack.
Even though she’s now part of the Regina Armada, Alexandra still calls herself a Shark, because she’s from Estevan. Parents were eager to volunteer, and coaches did what they could to help.
“They brought me into the sport, they taught how to play well, even though I wasn’t the greatest, and they did what they could with the small resources they had,” said Alexandra.