Mater Dei junior, Jada Ward, has been playing for the Varsity girls water polo team since she was a freshman. Despite her youth, Ward had the experience to battle against teenage opponents.
“I started high school young, I started training with high school when I was 12,” she said. “Going into high school, you’re playing with girls from 15 to 18, so it could be scary.”
Ward has been competing in water polo since she was eight years old. She enjoyed playing as a goalie and is still one to this day.
“I like the thrill that it gave me,” Ward said. “Somewhat control of the game.”
As a freshman, Ward helped Mater Dei get to the State Water Polo Championships where they finished in second place. During her sophomore year, she earned the Coaches Award for Most Improved Player.
“What has helped me is getting smarter with my play,” Ward said. “I think during sophomore year, I knew what I needed to do and get done.”
Ward was able to be trained by Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson, who is a goalie for Team USA Women’s Water Polo. She taught Ward to be confident in her play and trust her ability.
“I went to Princeton to work with her, it was really cool to be able to be taught by her in her home pool,” Ward said. “I think she’s a great role model, of course she set the bar so high for all active goalies and she’s just amazing.”
By playing for a club water polo team, Ward was able to compete in the Junior Olympics for three consecutive years. In 2017, Ward played for the SoCal Black A 12U team and became a first team All American. Playing club helps her scout her high school opponents.
“Prior to high school season starting, you have club season which gives you a look on who you need to look for, who the best shooters are on certain teams,” Ward said. “I end up doing better because I’ve been able to play against them a couple months prior.”
Along with water polo, Wade competes on the Mater Dei Swim team. She registered a personal best of 28s in the 50m Freestyle and a 1:02 time in the 100m Freestyle.
With a 3.5 GPA, Ward will be taking three Advanced Placement classes this school year: U.S. History, Biology, and Human Environmental Science. She noted that being a student athlete is being “a hard-working person with dedication and perseverance.”
“Balancing athletics and academics isn’t too hard,” Ward said. “It can be hard at times, but it just takes a lot of dedication and focus.”
Ward also volunteers with the elderly at Humana and for the Vivian Stancil Foundation. With the Water Polo team, she volunteers with the Orange County Association of Down Syndrome.
“We host a dance for them, we call it “Boo Bash,”” Ward said. “We all go and volunteer our time and we hang out with them and it’s a world of fun.”
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