Ashley Cohen ‘22
Since Matt Laws ‘21 joined the water polo team as a Second Former, he has brought his positive attitude with him to every practice. Recently made a captain, Laws’ attitude is unwavering while facing COVID-related challenges, as he leads the team, diving head-first into this unusual season.
Ashley Cohen: When and how did you first get involved in water polo?
Matt Laws: I started water polo as a Second Former. I’ve been a swimmer my whole life, and I’d tried ball sports in the past, so I thought that water polo would be a fun way to combine my different interests!
AC: How was the transition from swimming to water polo?
ML: The transition was a bit difficult. My first season, we started with a lot of swimming and conditioning, so I had a bit of an advantage. When it got tougher, I remember the upperclassmen at the time helped me get the hang of the sport. [As an upperclassman now,] I try to remember how I felt when I first started -- I had no clue what was going on. I remind the freshmen that they are not alone in their confusion and help them through the same issues that I went through.
AC: What is your favorite part about water polo?
ML: I like that it’s a really unique sport…I’ve never found anything comparable to it. I love the water, and it’s nice to have swimming and the game elements.
AC: What position do you play, and why do you like it?
ML: I play up top on the flats. I like it because it’s less about swimming and more about opportunities to shoot.
AC: What has been the highlight of your Lawrenceville water polo career?
ML: We had a tournament last year at Navy, and our last game was super exciting. Earlier that season, we had lost to the team we were playing, so we were expecting a similar outcome for this game. We had a comeback against the same team at Navy! We were up by ten points at half time, and our whole bench was substituted into the game. Everyone got to play, and it was a really nice transition from the game earlier that year.
AC: What is your favorite Lawrenceville water polo tradition?
ML: My favorite tradition is our annual bonfire on the golf course!
AC: Is there a particular game or tournament that stands out to you? If so, why?
ML: Our Easterns tournament last year was a nice end to the season. We didn’t have as great of a record there as we may have wanted, but we got to play a lot of tough games, face challenges as a team, and grow closer as a result.
AC: How have the water polo coaches made an impact on your time at Lawrenceville, in or out of the pool?
ML: We’ve transitioned through a few different coaches throughout my Lawrenceville career, but every coach has had a positive impact on my time here. Coach [Misha] Klochkov especially comes to mind when I think about my improvement inside the pool. I also appreciate all of Coach [Julio] Alcantara [Martin]’s help throughout my time here; he’s been a really important faculty advisor to me.
AC: What is the biggest lesson water polo has taught you, and how was it carried over into other aspects of your life?
ML: Our coaches always emphasize doing the small things right and working hard to get better. I’ve learned to do the best I can with what I have. For example, I may not be the biggest person in the pool, but I can put in effort in other areas to make up for that.
AC: How is the team adjusting with COVID-19? How are you trying to make it feel as similar as possible to the normal season?
ML: COVID has definitely made this season unusual and a bit difficult. We have limited practice times, but we try to get everyone together for dry-land drills, which feel closer to real scrimmages. We also get together for socially-distant team dinners. It’s nice to see the team working together, even with COVID in our way.
AC: How do you balance your athletic and academic lives?
ML: I think our daily structure here at Lawrenceville allows us to separate our athletic and academic lives. We can work on school outside of practice, and sports can be a nice break from schoolwork.
AC: Do you plan to play water polo in college?
ML: Yes! I hope to walk onto a club team in college.
AC: As a Fifth Former, how does it feel being your last year on the team? After you graduate, how do you plan to stay involved with future generations of the team?
ML: It’s sad being in my last year on the team, but I’m excited to see the team develop in the future. I know we’re leaving it in good hands. Since my Second Form year, water polo has meant so much to me. I’ll be back to watch some games!
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