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Lady Ray in rebuilding mode for team, program
The Bainbridge girls’ water polo team has seen better days.
Back then, they had enough players for varsity, JV and C-teams and were perennial contenders for a state title every season. They reeled off a streak of eight straight state championships from 1990-1998.
But now, they have only enough for a varsity side, as 11 players came out for this year’s team.
It has been a frustrating time for second year head coach Amanda Waterkotte, who is a 1998 graduate of Bainbridge High School.
Then Amanda Evans, she was on a strong team that won three state titles in her four years as a member of Lady Ray. She was a co-captain her senior year when the team’s state title streak came to an end at the hands of archrival Mercer Island.
“I was afraid last year that we would lose girls’ water polo,” she said. “That would have been really sad.”
Waterkotte said there had been some animosity in the past between the Bainbridge Island Swim Club and Lady Ray over girls who would swim for the high school team in the fall and also do water polo in the spring.
“It used to be back in the day people would go from high school swimming to water polo,” Waterkotte said. “Then in the summertime you would decide whether to play water polo or swim (the club season.)”
Waterkotte said the relationship between the two sides has improved significantly. She has been trying to recruit more girls to come out for the team at the high school (Waterkotte teaches American History and Learning Strategies) and she’s started a water polo program with Drew Keller through the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District to introduce elementary aged kids to water polo.
Senior co-captain Taylor Shea said either people don’t know about the sport or think it’s not challenging.
Shea picked up the sport several years ago to recover from a knee injury that ended her soccer career.
“For me, it went from playing water polo to stay in shape for swimming, to swimming to stay in shape for water polo,” Shea said. “It’s an amazing sport and it’s always challenging. It’s definitely made me a stronger swimmer and a stronger athlete.
“It’s all about teamwork and I think if people understood that, they would appreciate the sport more and play it,” she continued.
Shea also hopes they can attract more people to come out and watch the team. Waterkotte said this season there are several new players to the team who are still learning about water polo.
Only Shea, senior goalie Rachel Agmalian, seniors and co-captains Eliana Victurine and Anna McClain and sophomore Maddy Arends are the only returners for Bainbridge.
But Waterkotte likes the speed they have in the pool and how well they communicate with each other.
“I think once they get the awareness of the game down and the rules and regulations down, they are going to be good,” she said. “They are so excited about playing and its great to see them improve.”
Shea said there is plenty of younger talent, like Julia Griffiths, that can help provide a good foundation for the future.
Both sides hope they can not only improve on the team’s fifth-place finish at state last year, but increase Lady Ray’s numbers to get back to where they once were.
For more info, visit www.teamray.org.