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La Jolla High water polo players visit Hungary

For 21 players from La Jolla High School’s boys’ water polo team, the final days of their summer break have been spent not on the beaches of La Jolla but in pools across the Atlantic Ocean.

As part of a trip organized by Vikings coach Tom Atwell and the Windansea Water Polo Club, the student-athletes visited Hungary for 14 days of competition and cultural immersion.

“The trip’s purpose is threefold,” said Atwell, who heads the Vikings’ program and also coaches teams for Windansea. “First, they get 10 competition dates they wouldn’t have had, getting to face some of the best players and teams in the world. Second, they get to experience a different culture while playing a game they love - most of the team has not been to Eastern Europe, so it is new to nearly everyone involved. Lastly, the trip gives the team the opportunity to spend some time together and bond. That can only help as they head toward what we expect to be a very successful fall season.”

Atwell and the team departed for Budapest on Aug. 5, and were scheduled to return on Aug. 18. During that time, the group played a series of games, socialized with many of their opponents and did plenty of sightseeing.

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The team visited the House of Terror, a museum related to the fascist and communist dictatorial regimes of 20th-century Hungary that is also a memorial to victims of those regimes. Another day, the players toured Budapest on the Danube River, and toward the end of their trip, they visited Margarit Island and Lake Pelloton and spent some time touring Budapest on their own.

In between, they played plenty of water polo. Early in the trip, the team scrimmaged against a town club called Eger that has been in existence since 1906, and faced another club team that was started in 1911.

They also spent a day in a clinic with the coach from BVSC, the largest water polo club in Hungary, and also scrimmaged a team from BVSC. Hungary is traditionally one of the strongest nations in water polo.

At another point in the trip, the team played a game against a club from Kuwait. Afterward, they gave each of the opposing players a San Diego Padres cap and a Windansea water polo T-shirt, hoping to spread some American culture abroad.

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“The boys learned a ton and had a great cultural experience,” Atwell said.