Dominique Sardo has experienced plenty of success with the girls water polo team at The Bishop’s School, having won two Coastal League titles and two CIF San Diego Section championships in her three years on the varsity team.
During her summer break, however, she is focusing on dominating a much larger pool of competition.
Sardo, who will be a senior this fall at Bishop’s, played for the United States team that earlier this month won a global championship tournament in Brisbane, Australia.
The U.S. team won the division for players born in 1990 (age 17 and 18), in a four-team tournament played over six days on the northeast coast of Australia.
“This was the first international tournament we’ve had as a team, and it really helped to get to know my teammates and to know how it will be later on at the junior worlds, which I’m hoping to go to next year,” Sardo said. “The experience was great.”
Sardo, a driver and attacker, didn’t merely help the U.S. team win the tournament - she led the squad with 19 goals. In the championship game, Sardo scored three goals as the U.S. secured a 10-8 win over host Australia.
The U.S. lost its first game of the tournament, 10-8, to Australia’s ‘90s team despite three goals from Sardo. The Americans then pieced together a string of seven straight victories on their march toward the tournament title, and Sardo totaled 19 goals in that span.
Most satisfying to Sardo and her teammates was that they twice beat the Australian team that had upended them in the tournament opener, including in the title game.
“That was really cool,” Sardo said.
Sardo said the qualification process was difficult, with the team that would eventually represent the United States being pared down from a group of 40-50 hopefuls who tried out at an event in the Los Angeles area. The top players from that tryout advanced to a four-day tryout in Los Alamitos, from which the 14-player team was selected.
She said she found out she had made the team one week before the team departed for Australia.
The experience of traveling halfway across the world was eye-opening, Sardo said. She had been to many parts of the United States to play water polo but had not traveled internationally before playing in the global championships.
“It was amazing,” Sardo said. “It was an experience that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.
“Even though we were really busy during the tournament, we got to see a little bit of the country on the first day we were there and on the last day. What we saw was beautiful.”
Sardo’s summer water polo plans didn’t stop with her trip to Australia, though. She has been plenty busy playing the game she loves.
After returning from Brisbane, she competed in the senior global championships with an older team in Los Alamitos, and her team won there as well. After a day at home, she played with her club team from San Diego Shores in a tournament in the Inland Empire and then competed in another national tournament in the San Francisco area.
She planned to close out the month of July at a junior Olympics event back in Southern California.
“This is definitely one of the busiest summers I’ve had playing water polo,” Sardo said. “It’s been non-stop, with no breaks – but it’s fun. It’s totally worth it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Sardo is hoping to make the team that plays in the junior worlds next year, and after that, her goal is to work her way up to compete on the U.S. Olympic team at the 2012 London Games.
For now, her goal is to return Bishop’s to league and CIF San Diego section titles. She also expects to choose a college this fall, and is considering options that include USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Loyola Marymount and San Diego State.
Sardo also said she has gained valuable experience with all her travels and the high-level competition she has faced.
“The high school team isn’t going to be as physical as it was in Australia, but I’ve learned a lot about the game,” Sardo said.
“I think it will also help me in learning how to help players become a team. Going to Australia, we had to come together as a team really quickly, and I think I can try to pull our team at Bishop’s together and help the younger girls become part of our team, so we all learn to play together.”