Local Water Polo Boys Compete and Bring Home USA Wins from Prague

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(Lauren Smith, Photographer)
Bringing home wins for the USA, (L-R) Brock Zamanian and Dashiell “Dash” McFarland competed in the Fina Junior Water Polo World Championships in Prague Aug. 28 through Sept. 5, with Zamanian (attacker) and McFarland (center) as CC United Water Polo Alumni teammates at UCSB.

    When Brock Zamanian’s parents, Alison and Claude, found out the head coach of the Junior National Team asked their 18-year-old son to represent USA at the Junior World Championships in Prague in water polo, they were ecstatic.
    “We were thrilled when Brock told us,” said Alison Zamanian of Orinda. “We have always encouraged our boys to strive for their best and embrace the opportunities that life presents. Hard work pays off.”
    Brock was not alone at the championships. His friend Dashiell “Dash” McFarland, 19, also competed. McFarland lives in Berkeley and has trained in Orinda for years with swim teams and water polo clubs.
    The two competed in the Fina Junior Water Polo World Championships in Prague, Aug. 28 through Sept. 5, with Zamanian (attacker) and McFarland (center) as CC (Contra Costa) United Water Polo Alumni teammates at UCSB.
    Alison talked about their wins and losses.
    “The battles in the pool resulted in wins against Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany, and losses to Spain, Montenegro and Serbia. Team USA’s final game on day nine was a nail-biter against Greece, winning by one goal at 12-11 to take 7th overall,” she said.
    Brock, who graduated from Campolindo High School in May, swam with the Orinda Aquatics from ages 10 to 15 while playing water polo, but stopped swimming his sophomore year due to schedule conflicts.
    Currently a freshman at UCSB with an undeclared major and an interest in economics, Brock earned the Player of the Match award against the Czech Republic and was Team USA’s second-highest goal scorer in the tournament with 11 goals.
    “This was the most intense water polo I have ever played because of the level of skill and physicality that the players brought to the games,” he said. “I learned a lot being in Prague, particularly on how to be physically and emotionally stable at the same time in a game, which is a skill that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.”
    He loves water polo because of its camaraderie and skill building.
    “What I love about playing water polo is the brotherhood that it creates in a team to unite to win a game, as well as the physicality and anticipation that it demands to excel at this sport,” said Brock.
    Also at UCSB, studying environmental science, McFarland, as a center, drew 16 kick-outs – second place overall for Team USA – while defenders attempted to steal the ball from him. 
    “Winning games against the Czech Republic, Slovakia and especially Germany was a really special experience for me,” he said. “Of course, any win in a sport feels great, but the fact that we were playing for our country and had the United States flag on our suits made me very proud. Getting the win against Germany definitely was the best feeling because it put us into the quarterfinals. It felt like the point in the tournament where we really started to click and play at a level we all knew we could.”
    Dash’s parents, Sean McFarland and Lauren Smith, were able to travel with the boys.
    “It was really thrilling,” said Smith. “We were there for eight days, with a game every day. The international spirit of the event made every game feel very special. The quality of the competition was next level.”
    Competing in another country was also next level for them.
    “It was really exciting to see Dash representing the USA,” Smith added. “In the past, it’s been a club or a high school or a college team. This felt obviously so much bigger, and kind of daunting.”
    While the wins were exhilarating, Dash found growth opportunities in their losses.
    “The wins that we had at the tournament will certainly help me in my water polo career, but I think the most important thing was the losses,” he said. “It showed me how much I still have to learn as a player and a teammate, and it made me see ways I can change and improve my game throughout the rest of my time playing water polo.”
    Brock’s parents were not able to attend but watched the competitions from afar.
    “Unfortunately, we did not go to Prague to see the games live, but we did see them all via livestream. Even with the nine-hour time difference, we could watch them as it happened, although that wasn’t the same as being there,” said Alison.
    Representing the U.S. is something Brock will never forget.
    “Being in Prague was an unreal experience,” he said. “And it was an honor to travel internationally to represent my country.”

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