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Courtesy of UCI Media Athletics
Courtesy of UCI Media Athletics

Last season’s All-Big West player of the year faces the challenge of a lifetime. Will she continue to play water polo or commence post-graduate life working 9-5?

Senior on the water polo team Danielle Warde has made her way through UCI’s record book with 192 goals, placing her second in all time career goals. She first got her start in water polo at the age of 10, when she was a part of a Newport Beach Club. Her father, Tom Warde, played for UC Irvine in his collegiate days and encouraged Danielle to try the sport.

The sport grew on her, as she was a water bug for as long as she could remember.

“I grew up in Huntington Beach, so I was constantly in the ocean. My dad actually taught me to swim in the ocean, not in a pool. So I kinda grew up as a beach girl.” Warde said.

She loved sports. She was involved in other sports such as basketball and soccer, but they all lacked one thing: water. She loved being in the water. The team unity certain sports have, as well as the aquatic setting, is the reason water polo was the perfect fit for Warde.

When asked why she never enjoyed swimming as a sport, she responded, “I never liked swimming because it was individual and that was the difference for me. I like swimming because I am a swimmer, but it’s not a sport I liked because the team aspect of it was lacking.”

Her love of the water swam in unison with her ongoing career of seven years as a lifeguard at Huntington Beach. Although the job gets stressful at times, she appreciates the responsibilities and time management skills she has learned from the experiences he had. She clearly remembers one of the hardest decisions of her lifeguarding when there were two swimmers in need of rescue to the left and to the right of her. She had seconds to choose which was more dire and the immediate steps she would take.

“I saw that one person was further out and looked more stressed, and the other person was about to be in a bad situation, but hadn’t quite gotten there yet, so the decision was clear,” Warde said.

Although she is an expert at making quick decisions, Warde is still struggling with what she wants to do beyond graduation this June.

Her future is split in the middle. She has been contacted for opportunities to play water polo professionally abroad because the States don’t recognize water polo as a professional sport. Her second route would be to become a data analyst or an internal auditor.

“If I could have it my way, I think it would be really cool to work for a sports team and be their statistician and help in their recruiting. I want to use math to determine how risky a certain player is or what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Warde said.

Warde is the model student athlete. Not only does she love and play water polo with a passion, but she also loves math and engaging excellence in her math field is important to her as well. One of the main reasons she chose to attend UCI was because they gave her the option to choose which major she wanted to pursue.

“Other schools told me I could not do certain majors. It’s limiting because there are so many practices during the day, but at UCI, I had the option to choose,” Warde said.

With her career in mathematics still tentative, but the opportunity to play water polo professionally more fixed, the final decision seems like it would be a breeze. However, she is also due to be married next summer to her fiancé Aimone Barabino. They met through the collegiate water polo community and he currently plays water polo for the New York Athletic Club.

For now, Warde is stuck in the waiting game, similar to how she waits on her lifeguard tower to rescue a swimmer in distress. Sometimes you have to choose which situation is more important, other times you can get the best of both worlds.

In Warde’s case, she is setting aside the speedy decision making skills and focusing on her patience with what life hands her.

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