Joining Olympia’s water polo team four years ago, Kelsey Lehman walked in as a quiet, unassuming freshman.
Fast-forward four years later, and Lehman, now a senior and captain, has grown into a leader for the program and is on pace to break the school’s scoring record along the way.
“She’s always had a quiet strength about her, and (I’ve been) watching that quiet strength grow throughout the years,” Titans coach Stephanie Johnson-Possell said. “She has really stepped up into a leadership role.”
As Lehman has grown more comfortable with the sport and her teammates, the effects have been noticeable. After five of Olympia’s key senior players graduated following the 2014 season, Lehman and her teammates have stepped up to fill the void.
“When I first joined, I was more quiet and reserved,” Lehman said. “Then throughout the years, my team has gotten a lot closer, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with the sport, and it just showed.”
Lehman, who is also a swimmer at Olympia, originally joined the water polo team more as another excuse to be in the water — but she said she has grown to love the game.
“I’m good at swimming, but swimming gets boring at times,” Lehman said. “So water polo adds more entertainment, and it’s physical — it’s a team sport, so I like that.”
While beginning to play water polo involved a learning curve, Lehman learned more about herself and her team as each practice went by.
“I’ve definitely learned to communicate better in the pool and make more of a presence of myself rather than just sitting in the back and barely playing,” Lehman said.
As she has learned to push forward and lead her team, Lehman has never let her personal success or the success of the team go to her head. According to Johnson-Possell, Lehman is one of the main ingredients that hold their team together.
Olympia is currently 11-4 and considered one of the area’s best programs, much the same as the Titans’ boys team (10-4) is — with camaraderie playing a role, in particular, for the girls program’s success.
“Our girls team has a phenomenal relationship with each other, and for girl athletes that’s sometimes a challenge,” Johnson-Possell said. “The friendship that they’ve developed with one another is just something that’s really just a gift to coach.”
And, looking at Lehman, Johnson-Possell said many people may assume from her demeanor outside the pool that she is quiet and lays low, but as she swims, she has become another person.
“Put her in the water with a ball, and she becomes a beast,” Johnson-Possell said.
The Titans will be in action on Friday and Saturday in Coral Gables to compete in the Gulliver Tournament. Olympia’s next home match will be March 31 against Lake Mary at the YMCA Aquatic Center on International Drive.