From winning one game to reaching the NEPSAC Finals the following year, the Varsity Girls Water Polo team would not be where it is today without goalie Dylan Fulcher-Melendy.
Dylan has made her mark on the Girls Varsity Water Polo team and is only in her sophomore year. As the starting goalie, Dylan has played a key role on the team. Her journey, from never having played the sport only two years ago to now being one of the most essential elements of the team, is remarkable.
“In 8th grade Liv Cuevas, the captain at the time came to the middle school and said they were short on players,” Dylan said. “If they didn’t get people soon they wouldn’t have a team that year.”
The plea hit home with Dylan, who had played lacrosse for the past seven years, but didn’t enjoy it. She was game to try a new sport.
Apparently, Dylan was made for the sport, whether she knew it or not.
“We didn’t have a goalie at the start,” she explained. “I had been a swimmer when I was a kid and I did breaststroke, so one day we had to do this drill where we had to try and bring ourselves up out of the pool as much as possible.”
This exercise would change Dylan’s role in the sport forever.
“I didn’t think much of it at the time, but apparently I jumped the highest out of everybody,” she said. “After practice [Coach Bill] Berghoff came up to me and said [that] we [didn’t] have a goalie. [He said that] we are just going to throw you in and see how it goes.”
Dylan’s specialty is playing goal in the deep end rather than the shallow end, her ability to launch herself high out of the water gives her an advantage over players who may be taller.
“I play much better in the deep end [be]cause it’s fair game and I’m not that tall,” she said. “I just for some reason feel more comfortable in the deep end.”
The team only won one game her first year, against Hotchkiss, but she said the camaraderie of the players was strong. The following year saw mostly returners in the pool, which meant the team was significantly stronger. The girls gelled well, and the team’s record, as well as Dylan’s tenacity in goal, improved.
Dylan went to the Elite Brown camp last summer with two other Williston water polo players, where she faced off against some of the best water polo players in the northeast. Although it was a challenge, Dylan said she embraced the experience.
“It was another level considering I played with mostly 18 and 20-year-olds,” she explained. “It was a great challenge for me because they work very well individually with the goalies. It’s also good practice to play with guys even though it sucks in the moment.”
There are certain key moments from last year that Dylan will never forget, but this year she feels slightly more pressure.
“I remember beating Deerfield in overtime last year and that was pretty exciting,” she said. “This year I had my first shutout against Choate. Last year I made 196 saves which was the school record. My saving percentage was 56% so I hope to improve upon that this year.”
“I feel a little more stressed this year, to be honest,” she added. “:Last year I didn’t feel as much pressure but Bergs kept telling me ‘I’ve got this big plan for you.’ The joke is he won’t tell me the plan and it’s just a way to keep me going. I just really want to do well for my team. During my game I never think about the next game, I just try to focus on one save at a time.”
Coach Berghoff has played a big role in Dylan’s love for the sport and her progression as a goalie. Dylan credited his balance of encouragement and constructive criticism.
“From day one he has always been supportive and I’ve had a good relationship with him,” she said. “He’s a great coach and he knows how to lead the team. I’m impressed with him because we have so many new kids every year who have never played water polo before but after a week of starting, Bergs boosts their confidence so much and it shows when they are in the water.”
Sports are not something new in Dylan’s life; she is a tri-varsity athlete with letters in volleyball, squash, and water polo. This competitiveness comes partly from her family.
“My family is so competitive,” she said. “They are great because they got me into sports. They put me in all the sports that Madison [her sister] played, but I started volleyball in 7th grade and I made varsity in 8th grade. I’m going to be the captain year next year with Gates [MacPherson].”
Dylan isn’t sure about what her future holds, but water polo will most likely play a role.
”I’d like to go to California for college but I’m not really focused on going Division One or anything. But I do want to play.”
Abbie Coscia ’19, the girls’ water polo captain this year, expressed her appreciation and respect for having Dylan on the team.
“Dylan is amazing as a teammate,” Abbie said. “She’s always positive, supportive, encouraging and most importantly, hardworking. Everyday Dylan gives it her all and even in the offseason, she’s just the same way. I’ll get texts from her asking if I’m free to hop in the pool on a Sunday afternoon to shoot on her while she’s in goal or after practice she’ll ask me to take a few extra shots on her, while shooting from different angles so she can practice and be ready for any game situation. ”.
“Right from the start of Dylan’s water polo career, she naturally began in goal,” Abbie said. “Over the seasons Dylan has worked hard and really improved with stopping one on one breakaways and throwing the ball just where her teammates need her to after she stops a goal.”
“Without Dylan, we wouldn’t win a single game,” Abbie added. “Dylan undoubtedly plays one of the most difficult positions in the pool and is so talented at it. A lot of times during games I am shocked at some of the amazing stops she makes. I have so much confidence in Dylan, I know she’ll stop almost every shot. ”