Andre Williams wanted to live his life around the water.
A first team All-County water polo player at Fort Lauderdale High School, Williams’ dream was to become a boat captain.
He loved turtles, scuba diving and was even a certified rescue diver.
"He could have gone to any college he wanted for water polo, but he wanted to live his life on or around the water," said Williams’ mother, Kay. "He loved turtles and even had a tattoo of a turtle on his side. He used to tell people that he would probably come back as a turtle the day he passed away."
Unfortunately, that day came far too soon.
Williams, a senior, was killed in a motorcycle accident this past Christmas Eve. On his way home from his job at Water Taxi, a ferry boat service in Fort Lauderdale, Williams was riding his motorcycle when a car hit him while attempting a U-turn. Williams suffered severe injuries and was placed on life support where he spent five days until he died.
His death left the Flying L’s water polo teams and the sport’s local community shaken.
"It’s been really weird to adjust to not having him here," said Kalina Anderson, a goalkeeper on the girls’ team. "He would train with me since I was a goalie and a few of us worked with him at [Water Taxi]. He always kept our spirits up."
Fort Lauderdale, a boys’ and girls’ state quarterfinalist last season, chose to dedicate this season to Williams.
"The first match was very emotional," said first-year Fort Lauderdale coach Carrie Becker. "At our first meeting in January, we had a gathering at the pool where we all had a little bit of closure and said our goodbyes to him. That was tough, but good for the healing process for the kids."
Hanging on the fence next to Fort Lauderdale’s aquatic center is a banner that reads: "Andre Williams #7 Forever a Flying L."
The team also made posters with pictures of Williams and will wear practice T-shirts with his initials and jersey number on their sleeves this season.
Williams’ mother said the family chose to send donations to Sea Turtle Oversight Protection in Andre’s memory instead of having mourners send flowers to the funeral. Kay Williams said over $5,000 were donated.
"There are no words to describe how supportive the community has been to our family since Andre passed," Kay Williams said. "That’s the thing about the water polo community. Once you’re in it, it’s a family."
Williams, who played club for South Florida Water Polo, joined the high school team his sophomore season at the behest of recently retired Fort Lauderdale coach Debbie Cavanaugh, who knew him since seventh grade.
Williams, who stood about 6-feet, 1-inch tall wanted to play basketball. But it didn’t take him long to become one of Broward County’s top players. Last season, Williams scored 92 goals and had 73 steals and 30 assists to lead Fort Lauderdale to state.
"He was very easy going and always smiling," Cavanaugh said. "Nothing would ever upset him. You’d never see him with any turmoil. He was a young, energetic man that cared for everybody."
Williams was set to graduate early just before the accident that claimed his life, but he chose not to pursue a career in college water polo.
Williams was instead logging in the hours on the water he needed to become a boat captain. He still made plenty of time to be around his teammates though.
"Andre made it fun to play water polo," senior Will Trybus said. "He was my water polo idol."
Fort Lauderdale’s players, who began the regular season last week, still remember his presence vividly while they are competing. The Flying L’s have begun a tradition of yelling “Go Andre” at the end of every game.
"There are so many memories we’ll cherish from him cheering us on to him running and doing a belly flop into the pool," said teammate Raymond Jiampetti. "Every time we do our cheer I still see him like he’s still there, just laughing with us."
Feb. 24-25: Gulliver Invitational
March 3-4: Wildcat Invitational in Orlando
March 24-25: Ransom Everglades Invitational
March 27-29: Districts
April 1: State play-in games
April 7-8: State tournament at Ransom Everglades
2016 STATE CHAMPIONS
Boys: Belen Jesuit; Girls: Ransom Everglades
TOP RETURNING BOYS
James Burnette, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; Will Danon, Ransom Everglades, Sr.; Jason Gould, Ransom Everglades, Sr.; Cody Jones, South Broward; Caio Jordao, Gulliver, Sr.; Pablo Kurzan, Coral Gables, Sr.; Tyler Lopez, South Broward, Jr.; Robert Schulte, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; Matthew Simko, Ransom Everglades, Jr.; Parker Strickman, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; Federico Tamborrel, Belen Jesuit, Sr.; Adam Warters, Westminster Academy, So.; GK: Billy Bevill, Westminster Academy, Jr.; Erick Labrador, Belen Jesuit, Sr.
Others to watch: Jonathan Abramowitz, Miami Country Day, Sr.; Cameron Driller, South Broward, Sr.; David Lemus, Hialeah, Jr.; Jake Pearson, Ransom Everglades, Jr.; Rene Peralta, Gulliver, So.; Maggie Rodriguez, Gulliver, Jr.; Will Trybus, Fort Lauderdale, Sr.; GK: Christian Claramonte, Miami Country Day, Sr.; Miguel Lamar, Ransom Everglades, Sr.
TOP RETURNING GIRLS
Nicole Aulicino, Gulliver, Jr.; Paola Dominguez-Castro, Hialeah, Fr.; Emily Hill, Fort Lauderdale, Sr.; Emma Leto, South Broward, So.; Ashley Luy, Hialeah, Jr.; Natalie Mahalec, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.; Madison Martinez, South Broward, Sr.; Shani Rupp, Gulliver, Jr.; Naomi Sanders, Westminster Academy, Sr.; GK: Elizabeth Perez, Gulliver, So.
Others to watch: Carolina Carrera-Justiz, Ransom Everglades, Jr.; Ande Edmunds, Ransom Everglades, Jr.; Elle Futernick, Ransom Everglades, Sr.; Jeannet Garcia, Hialeah, So.; Amelia Gregorio, Miami Country Day, Sr.; Daisy Scassera, Westminster Academy, Jr.; Mya Wright, Ransom Everglades, Sr.; GK: Kalina Anderson, Fort Lauderdale, Sr.; Gaby Palmisano, Miami Country Day, Jr.
NOTE: For complete team-by-team outlooks, go to www.miamiherald.com/sports/high-school/
BOYS’ SEASON OUTLOOKS
BELEN JESUIT (Coach Jimmy Aguilera, 6th year, 110-11). Last year: 27-0 (State champions). Top players: DR Federico Tamborrel, Sr.; GK Erick Labrador, Sr.; Nicolas Aguilar, Sr.; Norberto Menendez, Sr.; Jose Chaviano, Jr.
CORAL GABLES (Coach Gerry Couzo, 2nd year at CG, 7th overall). Last year: 5-6. Top players: 2M Sigurd Ozuls, Sr.; GK Osmani Alegre, Sr.; UT Pablo Kurzan, Sr.; 2M Frederick Rapp, Jr.; UT Luis Lopez, Jr.
CYPRESS BAY (Coach Tori Warenik, 2nd year at CB, 5th overall). Last year: 12-5 (District champions). Top players: D Ferhan Wasif, Sr.; GK Lars van Gent, Jr.; D Mingi Soon, Sr.; D Ben McClennen, Sr.
FORT LAUDERDALE (Coach Carrie Becker, 1st year). Last year: 16-8 (State quarterfinalist). Top players: U Will Trybus, Sr.; S Kelvin Stephen, So.; DR Chad Kersey, Jr.; GK Raymond Jiampetti, Sr.
GOLEMAN (Coach Kathy Webb, 11th year). Last year: 10-3. Top players: W Cesar Delgado-Vara, Sr.; HS Raul Debesa, Jr.; W Sabastian Rivero, So.; DR Austin Ramos, Sr.; DR Marcos Cardona, Sr.; GK Giovanni Barrios, So.
GULLIVER (Coach Carroll Vaughan, 9th year at GP, 19th overall, 152-61). Last year: 12-15 (District champions). Top players: A Rene Peralta, So.; C Caio Jordao, Sr.; D Phillip Gubbins, Jr.; A Karan Mirpuri, So.; A Zack Marks, Sr.; D Taylor Quintero, Fr.
HIALEAH (Coach Alexander Donis, 3rd year at Hia, 7th overall, 48-34). Last year: 8-8. Top players: UTL David Lemus, Jr.; A Alejandro Mena, Sr.; C Adrian Mena, So.; CD Pedro Montero, So.; GK Mario Valdes, So.
MCARTHUR (Coach Lauretta Navarro, 2nd year). Last year: N/A. Top players: S Austin Lima, Sr.; P Naddir Ziadeh, Sr.; W MD Miro, Sr.; DR Elijah Zack, Sr.
MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Alain Guillen, 3rd year, 27-17). Last year: 14-6 (District champions). Top players: CD Jonathan Abramowitz, Sr.; GK Christian Claramonte, Sr.; HS Zachary Smith, Jr.; DR Eric Bernstein, Jr.; DR Juan Martin Caro, Jr.; W Sebastian Rodriguez, Jr.
MIAMI HIGH (Coach Tim Tornillo, 30th year). Last year: 7-4. Top players: D Olvin Villatoro, Sr.; GK Victor Ringgaard, Sr.; DR Adrian Gandara, Sr.; DR Angel Sousa, Sr.; UT Guillermo La Rosa, Sr.
RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Eric Lefebvre, 9th year at RE, 12th overall). Last year: District runner-up. Top players: A Jason Gould, Sr.; C Matthew Simko, Jr.; GK Miguel Lamar, Sr.; U Will Danon, Sr.; D Jake Pearson, Jr.; A Jordan Gould, Jr.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach Michael Goldenberg, 11th year). Last year: 23-4 (State runner-up). Top players: A Parker Strickman, Sr.; A James Burnette, Sr.; U Robert Schulte, Sr.; U Jacob Harkins, So.; GK Corby Bertolette, Sr.
WESTMINSTER ACADEMY (Coach Victoria Miklausich, 4th year). Last year: 9-7. Top players: S Adam Warters, So.; GK Billy Bevill, Jr.; DR Chase Perry, Sr.
GIRLS’ SEASON OUTLOOKS
CORAL GABLES (Coach Gerry Couzo, 2nd year at CG, 7th overall). Last year: 5-4. Top players: GK Meagan Lee, Sr.; 2M Catalina Saavedra, Sr.; U Gaby Pujols, So.; U Camila Torres-Caifa, So.
CYPRESS BAY (Coach Tori Warenik, 2nd year at CB, 5th overall). Last year: 4-14. Top players: D Isabella Bentz, Jr.; S Olivia Howard, Sr.; W Camila Tussie, Sr.; GK Makayla Wilson, Sr.
FORT LAUDERDALE (Coach Carrie Becker, 1st year). Last year: 15-8 (State quarterfinalist). Top players: DR Emily Hill, Sr.; GK Kalina Anderson, Sr.; S Tess Buccarelli, Jr.; U Carly Thornton, Sr.
GULLIVER (Coach Carroll Vaughan, 9th year at GP, 19th overall, 164-28). Last year: 20-8 (District champions). Top players: U Nicole Aucilino, Jr.; GK Elizabeth Perez, So.; A Shani Rupp, Jr.; D-HS Anastasia Perez-Ternent, Jr.; C Maggie Rodriguez, Jr.; A Isa Cavallini, Jr.
HIALEAH (Coach Alexander Donis, 3rd year at HIA, 7th overall, 48-36). Last year: 8-6. Top players: U Ashley Luy, Jr.; U Paola Dominguez-Castro, Fr.; CD Jeannet Garcia, So.; C Alejandra Aranguren, So.; A Melanie Hernandez, Fr.; A Claudia Briceno, Fr.
MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Stephanie Ragheb, 3rd year, 19-20). Last year: 11-7. Top players: GK Gaby Palmisano, Jr.; 2mD Amelia Gregorio, Sr.; DR Sofia Zamboli, Sr.; DR Rhiannen Reig, So.
RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Eric Lefebvre, 9th year). Last year: District champions. Top players: A Carolina Carrera-Justiz, Jr.; A Elle Futernick, Sr.; A Ande Edmunds, Jr.; C Mya Wright, Sr.; D Kathleen Hutchinson, Jr.; A Brooke Miller, Jr.
WESTMINSTER ACADEMY (Coach Victoria Maiklausich, 4th year). Last year: 13-2. Top players: S Naomi Sanders, Sr.; DR Alexis Moraitis, Sr.; DR Daisy Scassera, Jr.