Steven Emde is a marvel to those who watch him and a magnificent machination to those who have to defend him. The Parkway West senior water polo player is among the most lethal things you’ll find in a chlorinated pool. Last year, Emde scored 112 goals and handed out 56 assists. He was named the All-Metro Player of the Year as he helped the Longhorns to a 25-7 record and a third-place finish in the state tournament.
This year, Emde and his teammates are aiming for more. After graduating just one senior, Parkway West is dreaming of a state championship. The last time the Longhorns wrangled themselves a title was 1985, and another Emde was dominating in the pool. That was Greg, Steven’s father. He led Parkway West to back-to-back final fours and, after a runner-up finish, went on to win the title his senior year.
The son has the chance to swim in his father’s wake. The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Steven is built the way you dream up a water polo player: He’s long and lanky with giant hands that can palm the ball and the strength to fling it at blistering speeds. That long frame of his cuts through the water as if he had a dorsal fin. And he’s only getting bigger and stronger.
Emde and his teammates spent much of the offseason pumping iron. They’re past the awkward phase that comes between boyhood and manhood. They’re well on their way into being grown men and they plan to showcase that in the pool. “I hit the weights hard but at the same time, the whole team hit the weights hard,” Emde, 18, says. “We’re coming back bigger, faster and more aware of what needs to be done.”
A year ago, the Longhorns were knocked off 13-5 by perennial powerhouse St. Louis University High in the semifinals. Now, in their final season together, the Longhorns are approaching every minute in the pool as if it is their last. When not in the weight room, Emde and Co. were in the pool banging on one another in preparation for the pounding water polo can inflict. “We had open pools (practices) and they were high intensity workouts,” Emde says. “We were practicing on our own.”
Parkway West understands what a unique opportunity this is. The players know that now, in their senior season, they are one of the handful of teams that can say they have a legitimate shot at a state championship.
Their offseason workouts scream dedication and discipline—two things Emde learned at a young age from his father. A highly respected water polo coach, Greg Emde has taught his players and his son that if something is worth doing, then do it right and give it all you’ve got. It’s that type of discipline and drive that made Emde chose to continue his academic and athletic career at the Naval Academy. A highly sought-after water polo player, he visited Princeton, Brown, Harvard, Loyola Marymount and Bucknell. But the Naval Academy was where he believes he’ll fit right in. “A pretty good number of Division I coaches contacted me,” Emde says. “I feel at home at a military academy. I think I’ll be successful there.”
Emde would like to pursue a career in law and, eventually, become a judge. His maternal grandfather is a judge, and his mother works for a law firm.
But right now he’s focused on helping the Longhorns achieve things they haven’t done since his father patrolled the pool. “We have experience on our side,” Emde says. “The stars have aligned. We can’t sit back and watch it disappear.”
In their final year together, they’re going to try and grab a piece of history before it’s gone.