The Lakeridge water polo standout will see some of the best young players in the country before leading the Pacers team this fall

Matt Berman prepares to take a shot in a recent game for the Newberg-based Chehalem club team he plays for.For the second year in a row, Lakeridge High School's Matthew Berman is heading to the Junior Olympics to square off against some of the best young water polo players in the country.

Berman plays for the Newberg-based Chehalem team, featuring a handful of players from Newberg High School's very strong team along with a handful of other talented players from around the state.

Last year, Berman's team placed ninth in its division and Chehalem hopes to improve on that finish this year.

It won't be an easy task though as the competition level at the Junior Olympics is extremely high.

“Some of the guys you see are just amazing. They're so strong and you wonder how what they're doing is even possible,” Berman said.

Berman became interested in water polo in late elementary school when a friend of his who swam with him at ClubSport in Tualatin convinced him to give the sport a try.

“I loved it immediately. It was definitely more fun than just swimming back and forth and I've always liked team sports,” Berman said.

Berman played throughout junior high but, once he started high school and joined Lakeridge's high school team, he dedicated himself to improving dramatically. He was invited to play for the Chehalem team and also was involved in the exclusive Olympic Development Program.

As a member of Chehalem's team, Berman practices twice a day, four days a week during the summer, working on strength and conditioning in the mornings and on skills in the evenings.

Berman also works as a lifeguard at ClubSport over the summer which keeps him busy as he tries to stay in peak shape to keep up with the demands of the rigorous sport.

“As soon as people try (water polo) they realize how difficult it is. It's definitely one of the hardest sports on you physically,” Berman said.

At the Junior Olympics, not only is the competition stronger, but the rules also make the game more difficult than it is in a normal high school contest.

There is no shallow end in the pools and they are 30 meters long as opposed to 25 in a standard high school facility.

Berman has also played an important role in the recent resurgence of Lakeridge's High School program. Last year the Pacers finished sixth in state, its highest placement in school history.

Lakeridge graduated one of the best players to ever come through its water polo program in John Moon but Berman hopes to step up as the team's leader this fall.

“We should have even finished higher (at state) last year so I'm definitely hoping to step up and fill that void,” Berman said.

Berman's ultimate goal right now with his water polo career is to compete collegiately and he will look to get on the radar of more college coaches with his play with Lakeridge and with the Chehalem team.

Competition at the Junior Olympics begins on July 28 this year in San Jose, Calif. as Chehalem looks to advance in the Gold Bracket.

“I expect us to hold our own. We've got a really strong team. It just depends on how much we all want to get after it,” Berman said.

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