DeSilva joined the Hopkins Water Polo team in eighth grade due to her skill at swimming, although she had no prior experience of water polo. DeSilva said she originally joined the sport because “I had always spent my springs swimming up until that point. That year, though, I decided I was a little tired of swimming but still liked aquatic sports enough to try water polo.” In her first season, DeSilva said, “The team had really experienced and talented players, and I had no idea what I was doing and was so young and, therefore, somewhat scared of the older players.” However, she was quickly able to warm up to her team, stating that although initially she was reluctant to converse with the older players, every- one was so “kind and welcoming” and that because water polo is a contact sport, it was easy to bond with her teammates.
DeSilva said that her favorite memory from her years of water polo was when she scored her first goal in a JV game, claiming that it “boosted my confidence so much and allowed me to be more aggressive and confident going forward.” She also stated that, although she was initially terrified of the sport, she soon grew to love it, stating “I enjoy every aspect. Even the violent parts where I get the ball thrown in my face can (sometimes) be fun. I love the practices so much. Warming up, scrimmaging, and even just passing the ball make me excited and ready for games.”
DeSilva serves as goalie, meaning she not only has to tread water throughout the entirety of the meet, but has to stay vigilant for oncoming shots. Nonetheless, DeSilva states “I absolutely love being goalie! Although my arms hurt pretty badly at the end of every practice and game, the rewarding feeling of blocking the shots is so worth every (painful) moment.” Coach Chuck Elrick agreed: “Leela is one of only three senior girls that can remember having a full season of water polo. As a junior, Leela started working out as a goalie and will finally get the chance to show off her skills.” This season, DeSilva will act as a guide to Josie Sirowich ’26, her successor who will sustain the position as goalie after DeSilva
graduates. Sirowich said, “On the team, Leela is our main goalie and I am somewhat of her ‘apprentice.’ During my first time in goal, Leela not only acted as my mentor, but as my friend. She would shout encouraging remarks such as: ‘you’re doing great’ or ‘don’t worry about it’ or even ‘you’re awesome.’ Although these are small gestures, they helped me survive my practice and allowed me to find a passion for the sport.” Acting as goalie along with being co-captain of the team is a heavy responsibility to uphold. DeSilva said, “I guess there is a little bit of pressure to constantly be on top of things and making sure all of the team members are okay. However, the feelings of pressure are definitely overshadowed by the other positive feelings that come with being captain.”
DeSilva hopes to continue playing water polo on a club team after she graduates from Hopkins. DeSilva’s advice to her fellow players going forward is to “definitely not be scared to be aggressive. I have always been more on the shy side so my first few years of water polo consisted of me really getting out of my comfort zone. Everyone is super aggressive, though, and there is nothing to lose with really letting out anger. Also, never be afraid to ask questions!”