Ben Antonellis had a problem. The Pioneer student-athlete wanted to play water polo but he doesn’t like to swim. Sounds like a dilemma – which in the true sense of the word means a choice between two undesirable alternatives.
To play water polo you have to swim – right? Well, not really. There is one position where you more or less just tread water. So Antonellis went from a position player to a goalie and it’s been a perfect fit for both player and team.
Now a senior, Antonellis has been one of the reasons the Pioneers won 16 matches this season and finished second in the District Tournament. Their postseason run continues on Friday against Grand Blanc at Saline High School.
“I was a field player freshman year, scoring five goals as part of the JV team,” Antonellis said. “I don’t like the swimming aspect of water polo, so I decided that instead of swimming thousands of yards, I could just become a goalie. The best thing about being a goalie is seeing the entire game played out from within the water.”
Antonellis, 17, has been the starting varsity goalie at Pioneer for the past two years. He says he has enjoyed not only playing the position but learning the ins and outs of it as well.
“Watching and learning from my predecessors Lorenzo and Court was one of the highlights,” he said. “Watching them make incredible saves really inspired me to become a better goalie.”
Antonellis believes the Pioneers have a shot against Grand Blanc.
“We played this team once this season, losing in overtime by one goal, but our team has improved greatly,” he said. “So, yeah, I have a lot of confidence in our ability to win.”
And the keys?
“Focusing on the best players of Grand Blanc and shutting them down, having all the fundamentals of the game under our belt, and good communication in the pool,” he says.
Sounds simple enough.
This season hasn’t always been simple or easy but it’s been a fun ride, full of not only wins but improvement.
“The team played fantastic,” Antonellis said. “Our fundamentals and technique improved with each game. While we lost some games that we could have won, the regular season overall was a great learning experience.”
Antonellis credits a community aspect of the team as a key to their success.
“It has really brought the team together,” he says. “This creates chemistry that is unparalleled to other teams, which has brought success to this program. Also, Will (Hart) has been the coach at Pioneer for many years and he brings a lot of experience and consistency to the program.”
The son of Kristen and Tony Antonellis, Ben also is a member of “Desperate Measures,” a men’s a cappella choir group at Pioneer. He has started to narrow down his choices for college with Michigan State and Eastern Michigan at the top of the list.
His serious days of water polo are coming to an end but he hopes to keep playing for fun in college. “I would like to play club water polo, if I can fit it into my schedule,” he said.