PHARR The inaugural season of high school water polo under the UIL banner featured the Rio Grande Valley crowning four district champions and sending four teams into the Class 5A and 6A regional tournaments in San Antonio during the playoffs in 2022.

With Year 2 underway, area teams with water polo programs Harlingen High, Harlingen South, Los Fresnos, Mission High, Mission Veterans, PSJA High, PSJA Memorial, PSJA North, PSJA Southwest, Sharyland High and Sharyland Pioneer are aiming to level up during district and postseason play.

On Friday, 10 boys teams and eight girls teams competed at the PSJA ISD Second Annual Fall Water Polo Shootout tournament at the City of Pharr/PSJA ISD Natatorium. The tournament is slated to continue at 9 a.m. today with the boys semifinals. The boys championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m., with the girls championship game to follow at 2 p.m.

The boys semifinals will feature Sharyland Pioneer against PSJA North and PSJA High versus Harlingen South.

PSJA North’s Jayden Ybarra has picked up right where he left off last season, scoring in bunches. He helped lead the Raiders to a 23-6 win over PSJA Memorial to earn a spot in the tournament’s semifinals today.

“Hopefully we get far this year, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Ibarra said. “Hopefully we can win this tournament because we’re hosting it and show everybody that we’re the team to beat.”

PSJA North’s Jayden Ybarra (8) takes a shot on the goal against PSJA Memorial in a PSJA Water Polo Tournament at the City of Pharr/PSJA ISD Natatorium on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Early this season in non-district play, local teams have made a concentrated effort to travel up north to compete in tournaments against teams they’ll likely face in the second, third and fourth rounds of the postseason.

PSJA High’s boys and girls teams recently competed at the Northside ISD Waterpalooza Tournament in San Antonio. The Bears’ boys team won two games and tied another, while the girls team won its final game of the tourney.

PSJA High’s Jesus Sanches takes a shot on the goal against Mission Veterans in a PSJA Water Polo Tournament the City of Pharr/PSJA ISD Natatorium on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“It was important for us to travel out of the RGV. Any time we cross that imaginary line in Corpus Christi, it’s a different ball game,” PSJA High head coach Pedro Saavedra said. “We were able to win two games on the boys side, tied one and lost one on the girls side, but it gave us the confidence to believe that no matter the team, we can keep up with whoever the adversary is as long as we’re playing smart water polo.”

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