Student athlete profile

Name: Olivia Zelenka

Year: senior

Hometown: Clarendon Hills

How is it having a full water polo season again?

It’s been awesome so far, especially with the new (Don Watson Aquatic Center) pool. We’ve had a lot more girls come out for the team this year, and it’s fun seeing everyone experience new things.

When did you start playing water polo?

I’ve been playing since seventh grade, but I started playing goalie my freshman year. I have a pretty strong throwing arm. I after I tried the position in a JV game, I realized I liked it better than swimming back and forth the whole time.

What about the sport do you enjoy?

I really like the team aspect of it. I was a competitive swimmer, but in water polo you have to work together toward the common goal of winning. Being goalie is like the QB position in football, responsible for getting everyone in the right spot.

How would your teammates describe you?

Probably outgoing. I definitely try to lift the team’s spirits and keep the morale high even when things aren’t going great.

What’s your goal for season?

I want to capitalize on our opportunities at tournaments and help our team succeed to the best of my abilities. We have a lot of new girls, so I’m excited that I’m able to share my experience and use that to all of our advantage.

How have you improved as a player?

I’ve gotten stronger, and I understand the game on a deeper level so I’m more of an asset to the team in setting up offensive plays.

Do you have any pre-game routine?

I always make a Starbucks run to get my six shots of espresso.

What else have you been involved in at Central?

I run the student political union and have done bass fishing.

Where are you headed after graduation?

The University of Virginia to study political philosophy and pre-law.

Why does coach Chris Ortiz like having Zelenka on the squad?

Olivia’s very good tactically, she’s a good communicator and she’s one of our captains. She’s really the leader on defense, telling the girls where to go. Her and I are on the same page most of — if not all of — the time. We just need to look at each other and she knows where I want them to go.

— profile by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff