The High-Water Mark

NASH senior Becca Melanson has made waves in water polo that reach all the way to the California shore.

Becca+Melanson%2C+a+senior+at+NASH%2C+has+an+uncommon+commitment+to+her+sport%2C+traveling+back+and+forth+between+Pittsburgh+and+California+several+times+a+year+for+training.

courtesy of the Melanson family

Becca Melanson, a senior at NASH, has an uncommon commitment to her sport, traveling back and forth between Pittsburgh and California several times a year for training.

Greta Mott, Staff Writer

NASH senior Becca Melanson has been playing water polo only since seventh grade, yet she dominates the sport at North Allegheny.

Melanson has played for highly ranked national teams such as the Development National Team, two Cadet National teams, the Youth National Team, and the Pan-American Team, in addition to the North Allegheny Girls’ Water Polo team.

The most significant tournament Melanson has played in is the Pan American games, located in Indianapolis.  She has also played in tournaments as far away as Greece.

In order to train and compete in these tournaments, Melanson travels excessively.  Every year she travels to Long Beach, California seven separate times, where she stays with a host family she met through the national team. 

“I take a red-eye flight on Spirit Airlines and go to school the same day,” she said.

With so much traveling, Melanson’s life can be quite challenging, but she remains determined.

“I have to do it, or else I am not part of the team,” she said.

Melanson is the only girl on the national team who does not reside in California.  While in Long Beach for the course of the summer, she practices with Long Beach Aquatics and trains with that team to play in competitive tournaments.

Since Melanson travels so much throughout the year, she has to balance her sport and school. 

“I take classes I know I can handle.,” she said. ” I never make my workload harder than it has to be.” 

Although Melanson is always focused on school, she also prioritizes Water Polo.  

I stay here because of my roots, [but] I have to leave PA and go to California if I want to pursue water polo after high school.”

— Becca Melanson, NASH senior

When times get tough, Melanson is motivated by all the work she has put into her sport.

“I came all this way,” she said. “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.” 

Melanson looks up to her high school Water Polo coach, Damir Matanovic, affectionately known as Mata, who leaves his family in Montenegro for the school year just to coach both the Boys’ and Girls’ Water Polo teams at NA. 

“He sacrifices more than I ever have, and I respect him for that,” Melanson said.

The senior standout has been offered to go to high school in California but has declined all offers to transfer out of Pennsylvania. 

“I stay here because of my roots,” she said, “ [but] I have to leave PA and go to California if I want to pursue water polo after high school.”

In late August, Melanson verbally committed to UCLA to continue her water polo career.  She described the recruitment process as very competitive, yet UCLA has shown interest in her since eighth grade, and she likes how familiar she is with the UCLA coaches, campus, and officials.  

“The scholarship money was also tough to pass up,” she added.  “Private schools like USC are really hard to get money from, but with a public school like UCLA, it was easier to have my financial needs met.”

One experience Melanson said has prepared her for collegiate competition is the North Allegheny Swimming Team. 

“Corky [Semler, the team’s head coach] treated us like we were a D1 college,” she said.  

In both her sophomore and junior years, Melanson swam at WPIALs and scored points to help the Tigers secure their 15-year league championship streak.  She also was part of the state team, where she helped her team finish third. 

After two successful and fun years on the swim team, Melanson will come back to the team and swim this winter for her senior year.

With all the hard work and grit she has put into her sport, Melanson nevertheles remains humble about her future. 

“We will see,” she said.