By Joe Naiman
Playing water polo for Ramona High School has required some adjustments for Matteo Franchello. The Italian exchange student’s English language skills are improving, although he is still learning slang and terminology. He brought his European experience to the Bulldogs but is also transitioning into the American high school style of play.
The adjustments didn’t prevent Franchello from scoring 28 goals in Ramona’s six games during the week of Oct. 8-13, and earning
Athlete of the Week honors. His lowest offensive output during the week was three goals during Ramona’s 13-5 win, Oct. 9, at Army-Navy, where Ramona coach Donnie Williams’ attempts not to run up the score limited Franchello’s shots. In fact, Williams placed goalie Isaac Gross in the field for the fourth quarter against Army-Navy while putting Franchello in the nets, where he made two saves against the Warriors while allowing only one goal.
“He’s been a big part of our whole program,” Williams said. “He’s done a good job.”
Franchello scored 25 goals in Ramona’s five Vellenkamp Tournament games Oct. 12-13. The Bulldogs played fellow San Diego Section school Steele Canyon to open the tournament, and Franchello had five goals and an assist in the Bulldogs’ 11-9 win. He scored six goals in Ramona’s concluding tournament—a 14-6 victory over Beaumont.
“He knows the game. He knows how it’s supposed to be played. He’s teaching the rest of the team to be better and stronger,” Williams said.
Franchello doesn’t necessarily need fluent oral communication to guide his teammates. During the Army-Navy game he also had two steals.
“He knows the aspect of playing solid defense,” Williams said.
Franchello mentors his teammates on defensive skills as well as shooting.
“He’s teaching Jesse (Reiling) and Levi (Vermeulen) and Ryan (Hall) and the rest of the team the aspects of the game they’re not well-versed in,” Williams said.
In addition to his field shooting skills, Franchello has missed one penalty shot all year.
“He doesn’t always use the same shot,” Williams said. “He’s got a quick release but he’s very accurate as well.”
Not everything goes smoothly. Franchello played on a club team in Italy. While the United States also has club water polo, a high school team develops its players, and that is new to Franchello.
“He still struggles at times because they’re so structured over there,” Williams said.
The fact that Williams and the rest of the team speak English is also an obstacle Franchello is trying to overcome.
“Sometimes the language barrier comes into play,” Williams said. “He says I talk too fast.”
That may be the only time Franchello tells something to Williams instead of the other way around.
“He’s easy for me to talk to,” Williams said. “He’s trying to learn and understand what I’m saying. He really tries to understand what we’re trying to teach over here.”