Nelligan, senior co-captain of the Fords’ water polo team (10-3) has scored 54 goals and dished out 23 assists (as of Monday Sept. 25), including a season-high 10 goals against Gonzaga Sept. 15 (close to the school record of 13 set by Paul Deasey in 2008). Nelligan is on pace to set the school’s single season goal scoring record set in 2013 by John Zipf.
Q: What do you think is the strongest part of your game? What area of your game are you working on the most currently?
A: I think the strongest part of my game is my speed and mobility, driving into whole set, and the strength of my shot. I am a pretty fast swimmer which helps catch defenders off guard allowing me to use my speed to blow by them. I am currently working on my outside shooting, which would allow me to become more of a complete threat on offense.
Q: You started playing water polo in seventh grade – what sparked your initial interest? What position do you play, and what attracted you to that position?
A: My two older brothers Will and Ben were swimmers and water polo players. From there, I realized that I was a fast swimmer with a pretty good shot, so I usually play on the wings where I look to either drive or shoot.
Q: What do you think was the key to your scoring against Gonzaga? Is there one play that stands out in your memory from that contest – can you share it with us?
A: I think my overall success against Gonzaga was running our offense and cycling through our drives. I also found success countering them and using my speed to my advantage. I remember one particular play where I drove into set and took a backhand shot that went into the top right corner.
Q: How do you see your role as captain of the Haverford School water polo team? How do you feel you can best display your leadership?
A: I see myself as a captain to be there for the team after a tough loss or after a great win. For example, we lost the Beast Of The East championship game in double overtime and our team was heartbroken. As a captain you have to be there to lift your teammates up and to motivate them for the next game. I usually like to say a little quote after a tough loss. As an example – “The greatest wins are born on the ashes of our greatest defeats.”
Q: Who has/have been your biggest water polo mentor(s), and what was the most important thing each of them taught you?
A: My biggest water polo mentors have been my coaches and my dad. My coaches have been there to advocate for me and to help me become a better all around water polo player. My dad has been at every game and has helped me all along the way.
Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation the day of a match.
A: Usually before games I will plug in my headphones and listen to music, talking to the two other captains, and our players about the game, our approach and what lies ahead.
Q: What colleges are among your current favorites? What do you think you’d like to major in at college?
A: As of right now I am looking to attend a service academy; the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy. I am thinking about studying engineering or economics; I’m not really sure yet.
Q: Do you participate in any other extracurricular activities at Haverford School? What sparked your interest in joining these activities?
A: I am involved with the Service Board at The Haverford School; which orchestrates and manages our community service efforts. I always felt like giving back to the community is a great thing. Every year. I lead the annual school-wide Turkey Drive, where we collect frozen turkeys and bring them to Project H.O.M.E.
Fun facts – John Nelligan
Favorite book: Unbroken.
Favorite TV show: The Walking Dead.
Favorite movie: The Shawshank Redemption.
Favorite athlete: Josè Bautista.
Favorite pre-match pump-up song: Not Afraid, by Eminem.
Favorite team: Philadelphia Flyers.
Favorite place to visit: Ireland.
Favorite pre-match meal: Pasta.
Favorite color: Red.
Person I most admire: “My brothers have always been there for me whether its sports or anything, and I can always count of them for any kind of help.”
Siblings: sister Katie, brothers Will and Ben.
(To be selected as Main Line Boys Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by his coach.)