Making a Splash

For water polo newcomers Mikayla Tieppo and Marko Kosanovich, the high-intensity competitiveness of the sport is just what they were looking for.


photo by Maddie Harris

NA senior Marko Kosanovich helps lead the NA boys’ team to victory during Saturday’s tournament.

Maddie Harris, Arts and Entertainment Editor

It’s 7:30 on Saturday morning, the 11th of September, and junior Mikayla Tieppo is making her way to NASH bright and early, most likely before her peers in school are awake. It is a big day for her and the rest of the team — the morning of her first home water polo tournament, the Tiger Classic. After training three mornings a week and right after school, Tieppo and the rest of the team are ready to compete and show their skills.

This season is Tieppo’s first season competing with the Tiger water polo team. She has been swimming from a young age and decided to branch out her junior year. 

“I’ve been on the swim team my whole life along with my siblings, and then my brother tried waterpolo since he already had the swimming background,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to try it and I figured I’d rather start as a junior then never do it at all.”

Likewise, senior Marko Kosanovich began his water polo career this year following his swimming endeavors.  

“I heard about [water polo] from Ethan Berty and I was interested when I looked over at a practice and it wasn’t just swimming,” Kosanovich told The Uproar.

Water polo at North Allegheny is a high intensity sport but one that seems to go unnoticed by many. At the high school level, NA has three teams: the girls’ varsity, the boys’ varsity, and boys’ junior varsity. Junior Rebecca Melanson described the typical practice schedule for her team. 

“Like basketball, you are constantly going back and forth from offense to defense, but in water,” Melanson said. “Swimming is a huge part of our conditioning and each of our practices. In order to pass and shoot the ball, you have to have very strong legs because you are constantly treading with people hanging on you. We will tread with med balls, five-gallon jugs filled with water, and even a canu (on a fun day.) Both swimming and leg work are a part of our everyday practices because of the importance they have.” 

Due to the practice schedules for other sports, water polo practices differ by the day and can be at odd hours throughout the day.

“An average week for us is three double practices,” said Melanson, “which consists of a morning from 5:15-7:00 with weight lifting in the afternoon. The two days without a morning consists of a two- or three-hour afternoon practice.” 

North Allegheny is one of the only high schools in western Pennsylvania that has their own water polo team, making it difficult for the NA team to compete against other schools. When the team competes in tournaments, they have to travel great distances to meet with their competing teams. 

“We have a tournament every weekend,” said Melanson. “Our closest competition is in Erie, where we play McDowell and Villa. For some tournaments, we have to leave on a Friday and spend a night playing against Cumberland Valley and North Penn. Once our third tournament is completed, we begin with games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, traveling up to Erie and back.” 

All of the hard work in practices and tournaments has paid off for the NA team, as they are recognized statewide for their performances. 

“Both the girls and boys won their Western Conference tournament, and both teams got 3rd in states last year,” Tieppo recalled.

For new recruits Kosanovich and Tieppo, the team atmosphere has been welcoming and enjoyable, offering a competitive atmosphere and team connection.

“It’s just a fun group of guys and it’s an enjoyable sport, especially when you win, said Kosanovich. “I would recommend the sport, but just be ready for the intensity that Coach Mata brings each and every day.”

Similarly, Tieppo has enjoyed getting out of her shell and experimenting with the new sport. 

“I love the games,” Tieppo said. “I’ve only ever done swimming, which isn’t a contact sport, so I love going against other people one on one and being aggressive. I highly suggest people get out of their comfort zone and do things they never thought they would. Staying in your bubble can drain you, and you’ll feel burnt out with life. Doing new things and making new friends can give you a new purpose and a reason to get up.”