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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For most of her childhood, Fiona Young was a swimmer. But growing up in Orinda, Calif., water polo is a very popular sport. At 12 years old, Young climbed into the swimming pool once more, but this time to try water polo. It was a decision that would ultimately shape the course of her academic and athletic career.

Young, a three-time USA Water Polo All-Academic selection, revealed, “In my town, water polo is like soccer for little kids.” Since she already was swimming, she describes that it was a natural step for her to try it out.

Three years later at age 15, Young attended Wolverine Water Polo Camp where she caught the eye of University of Michigan’s head water polo coach, Dr. Marcelo Leonardi.

“We first saw Fiona’s potential at our Wolverine Water Polo Camp when she was 15 years old,” said Leonardi. “We knew then she was going to be a special player. From a young age, we could tell Fiona wanted to be a part of the Michigan community.”

Young remembers being impressed by Michigan’s athletic facilities, but more so, the people, the overwhelming presence of school spirit, and the zealous culture. It turns out that Michigan was ultimately a natural choice for Young between its outstanding water polo program and its greater emphasis on academics.

“It didn’t really matter where you were from or what kind of person you were: you could all agree that you loved Michigan and since being here that’s only been reinforced,” Young said.

Young and her roommate, Ashley O’Neill comprise the small-but-mighty 2021 freshman water polo class. In just a few months, they have already experienced the Michigan culture and community firsthand. Young explained that they were essentially adopted and taken under the wing of the seven-person sophomore class, with nothing but good things to say.

From left: Fiona Young with fellow freshman Ashley O’Neill (Michigan Photography)

“They’re all really cool individuals and very unique,” said Young. “There’s not somebody on this team that I don’t admire.”

Young shared that she can always count on the sophomores to help her and O’Neill out with little things like driving them around town, shipping packages to their house and even something as simple as letting them hang out on their couch.

“I don’t know what we would have done without them,” said Young. “They’ve been really welcoming and I can’t really imagine what it would have been like without their kindness to us.”

Since arriving on campus, Young and O’Neill have relied on each other to get through the difficult and overwhelming transition to college life.

“We just gel really nicely and from the very beginning I was just instantly very comfortable around her,” said Young. “We get through it together. I cannot imagine doing this with anybody else.”

In her next four years as a Michigan student, Young is dedicated to maintaining a high GPA and solidifying a major and career path that she is truly passionate about. Young is currently enrolled in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts but she has plans to apply to the School of Public Health with dreams of pursuing a career in the healthcare industry, possibly as a hospital manager.

As far as water polo is concerned, she is continuously working to build chemistry with her teammates and actively improve her water polo skills to become a contributing member of the team.

Dr. Leonardi is confident that it will happen.

“Fiona has a firm understanding of our culture and style of play, which will help her transition well into her role on our team. What sets her apart is her character, dedication to the classroom and her desire to continually improve as a water polo player.”

Thanks to a little help from her friends, family and teammates, Michigan truly feels like home for Young and she couldn’t picture herself in anything other than maize and blue.

“It’s the best school in the world and I honestly could not see myself anywhere else.”

Release courtesy University of Michigan Athletics Communications

Collegiate Water Polo Association