Only 14 players received First Team All-America Girls Water Polo honors by the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association and just two athletes on the list hail from the Northeast.
Greenwich’s Bella Schraa is one of the Northeast water polo stars that achieved All-America status and is the only Connecticut player chosen for the prestigious honor.
A rising Greenwich High School senior, Schraa earned First Team All-America recognition by the NISCA following another standout season for Greenwich’s girls water polo team and numerous impressive performances in the pool in various events throughout the nation.
The NISCA 2020-2021 All-America Girls Water Polo selections included Four Teams – First through Fourth, and an Honorable Mention list. Schraa is the only player from Connecticut that was named an All-American. The First Team featured four players from California, two athletes from Florida, two from Texas, two from Utah, one from Pennsylvania and one each from Michigan and Illinois.
“I’m very honored and grateful that I’ve been given this recognition,” the 16-year-old Schraa said. “I’ve put a lot of hard work in for this and I feel like everything is paying off.”
Schraa has competed on Greenwich High’s winning water polo team since her freshman year. Coached by Paul Constantin, the Cardinals recorded an undefeated 2021 season this past spring, with Schraa sparking the squad offensively. She also helped ignite the Cardinals’ offense her freshman season in 2019 – Greenwich’s 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For Paul to have put me in as a candidate shows how much he cares for what I am doing,” Schraa said. “It makes me very happy and I’m very excited.”
Though Greenwich’s 2021 water polo season/schedule was modified a bit due to COVID-19 restrictions, the team still played 11 games, emerging victorious in each matchup. Schraa scored the most goals in the majority of the Cardinals’ games and was a key playmaker throughout the season.
“We had a great season, we were undefeated for the first time in a very long time,” Schraa said. “It was great to achieve that and for the whole team to be part of something like that. I’ve played for Paul for so long and to have this victory of being undefeated, was exciting for us all.”
Twins Charlotte and Anneliese Ashley were the graduates from Greenwich’s unbeaten 2021 team. The rest of the players from this past spring’s team are expected to return next season.
“I’m super excited for next season,” Schraa said. “We have a lot of talent on the team and I’m very hopeful that we will do very well next season.”
Since Greenwich’s 2021 season schedule was altered due to the pandemic, it played most of its games at home, instead of traveling to several NEPSAC boarding schools that it would have normally competed against.
“I remember my freshman year we went up to Choate and that was one of the most fun things, we did,” Schraa said. “The whole travel part of it is such a great bonding experience. I would talk a lot with my captains during my freshman year and I got to know the upperclassmen. I’m excited to start traveling again and bonding with my team.”
Schraa first competed in water polo as an 8-year-old at Chelsea Piers Connecticut in Stamford.
“I didn’t like it at first, so I kept swimming,” she said. “As I kept swimming at Rocky Point Club (in Old Greenwich) for coach Terry Lowe I became a stronger swimmer. But everyone does everything at Rocky Point (swimming and water polo) and I realized that I really liked water polo. After that summer, I started playing the full year with Chelsea Piers.”
For five years, Schraa honed her water polo fundamentals at Chelsea Piers under the tutelage of coach Paul Rameley.
“I give them full credit for developing my skills as a player,” she said. “I learned the basic skills as a player at Chelsea Piers for five years.”
At the age of 15, Schraa joined the Greenwich Aquatics Water Polo Club, led by coaches Ulmis Iordache and Gabriel Maldonado. The athletes in the program train five to six days a week the majority of the year, while competing in numerous regional and national events.
Schraa has been a member of the USA Water Polo Cadet National Team and made the Futures International roster. She’s also made USA Water Polo’s Academy Team. In 2017, started training with the Olympic Development Program and in 2018 she made USA Water Polo’s Olympic Development Team.
She was selected as a member of the Northeast Zone squad and traveled to California to compete with the squad.
“I did not make the National Team Selection Team Camp that year,” she said. “It pushed me a lot and created more of a drive to get it the next year. The next year, in 2019, I made the Northeast Zone team and I made the Selection Camp and made the USA Water Polo Senior National Roster.”
“Being denied that first year really motivated me and showed that I wanted it so bad, ” Schraa continued. “Since then I have been part of the Academy team, which includes the top players in the U.S.”
Schraa, who is also an alternate for the Youth National Team this summer, has visited California several times this summer to compete in her favorite sport. She displayed her skills at the USA Water Polo Junior Olympics in California this past week as a member of the Los Angeles Water Polo Club.
“I am playing with and meeting a lot of girls, it has been a good challenge for me,” Schraa said. “I’ve had a lot of fun playing against high-level teams.”
Currently, Schraa is in the college recruiting process. She wants to play water polo in college for a school that has a strong Division I program.
“I started emailing colleges the end of my sophomore year, which is when you can start emailing them,” she said. “It’s been very different for me and everyone else, because of COVID, they kept pushing everything back. Most girls commit during the summer before their senior year. Right now, I’m sort of eager to make a decision.”
In the pool, Schraa plays center – a position she especially enjoys.
“Center is the most offensive player in the game,” said Schraa, whose favorite subject in school is mathematics. “We wrestle the center defender to get position and shoot. The center sets everything up. My goal is to get the goals, or set my teammates up for getting the goals. One of the things I like about water polo is the fact that there are so many different ways to play water polo. You can play for your club team, your national team, your high school team or on an international team. It’s an aggressive sport and there are so many ways to excel.”