On Deck With Sofia Diaz Alvarez of Wagner Women’s Water Polo

Wagner Women's Water Polo vs Indiana at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, MI on Jan. 25, 2020.
Wagner's Sofia Diaz Alvarez is one of the nation's best playing on the East Coast. Photo Courtesy: Dianna Oatridge

PROVIDENCE, RI. If you have not seen Wagner’s Sofia Diaz Alvarez play, you are missing one of the region’s best water polo players. Now a sophomore for the liberal arts school on New York City’s Staten Island, the native of Madrid, Spain has emerged as the top attacker and defender on a Seahawk squad that has won six-straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championships and with that berths in NCAA women’s water polo tournaments from 2014 – 2019.

wagnerLast year, she became the first Seahawk freshmen to score 100 goals—she collected 109 on the season—and combined with 52 assists and a team-high 93 steals, was second on the squad with 161 points, behind teammate Erika Hardy. A senior last year, Hardy (80 goals, 87 assists) concluded her Wagner career as the 2019 MAAC Offensive Player of the Year.

A testament to her ability came from Indiana Head Coach Taylor Dodson, whose Hoosier team dropped an 18-17 decision to the Seahawks last month with Diaz Alvarez contributing eight goals and seven assists.

“She gets out of the water so high and has great control of the ball,” Dodson said in a recent interview. “She’s very athletic, she’s smart and she’s fast.”

For her efforts, Diaz Alvarez was named 2019 MAAC Rookie of the Year as well as an All-American Honorable Mention by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC). This year, she’s picked up where she left off, thanks to a summer spent training with the Spanish national team and representing her country in the 2019 FINA Junior World Championships in Portugal which beat the American juniors 10-9 for fifth place.

Because of their stellar sophomore, returnees Jacqui Sjogren (91 goals, 112 exclusions drawn) and Katherine Campbell (38 appearances, over 200 saves) and a strong freshman class anchored by Valeria Rojas, part of the Canadian junior national team, and Australians Abby Simshauser or Skye Nankervis, Wagner is again favored to win the MAAC.

[2020 Swimming World Women’s Water Polo Previews: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference]

During the 2020 Bruno Women’s Water Polo Classic last weekend Swimming World spoke with Diaz Alvarez about the dominance of Spanish men’s and women’s water polo in the run-up to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the Wagner coaching change, with Ciaran Wolohan taking over for Chris Radmonivich and the prospects for a Seahawk squad that since 2015 has not lost a MAAC match in the water.

– What is it that makes the Spanish men and women so good at this moment?

It’s because we train so hard when we are young—we train two times a day. I think that’s really important. When you’re training so much, when you have to play one game only on the weekend… you are feeling fit.

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A constant in East Coast polo: Wagner wins! Photo Courtesy: Wagner Athletics

– You’re from Madrid but the Spanish national team is centered in Barcelona.

In Spain, the [most popular place for water polo] is Barcelona. It’s the best city because they have lots of pools and that’s where the national team trains. For example, this summer I went to Barcelona for one month and a half to prepare for the world championship.

– You represented Spain in the 2019 FINA Junior World Championships, which is a stepping stone for the senior national team.

I train for the last year [with the senior national team] but it is so difficult. There are a lot of girls, and if you go to another country and play there, it’s difficult because the national coach can’t see your water polo [progress].

– There are two Spanish players who came to America and are now playing with the senior team; Roser Tarrago, who played at Cal, and Irene Gonzalez, who just graduated from Hawai’i. Do you see a path for you to make the senior national team?

It’s possible but it’s so difficult. I want to try to go because one of my dreams is to go to the Olympics and represent my country.

– You come back to a team that enjoyed so much success under Chris Radmonovich, your former coach.

I liked Christopher who was a very good coach. But, I wanted to come back to Wagner. I think that the team is really good, and I like all the players and [new] coach Ciaran.

[Radmonovich Steps Down After Nine Superb Years Leading Wagner Water Polo]

Also, I want to learn more English, and playing here helps that. Plus, I like to try new things, and the water polo here is so different from Spain.

– Let’s face it, whenever you’re in the water, you’re likely to be the best player on either side.

I feel good because so many of my teammates say it’s really nice playing with me.

Wagner Women's Water Polo vs Indiana at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, MI on Jan. 25, 2020.

Photo Courtesy: Dianna Oatridge

– What most impressive is your technique which is superior to American players’ skills.

When I was in Spain I was training so much because I went to a specific school only for the national team. I was training in the morning and the afternoon. This is the difference between me and a lot of people here. I believe the difference is only the training.

If you’re an American and you’re training so much you can go to the national team. The difference may be the qualities that you have but I think that what’s most important is the training.

– With a new coach, how will the Seahawks do in MAAC play this season?

This year we will be fine because our freshmen are really good—for example, Valeria is on the Canadian national team. Abby and Skye are from Australia and are really strong.

The most important thing is we play together in the water as a team.

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