Team Ray looking to rebound

Team Ray water polo captains (L-R) Cooper Ashley, Austin Hallett and PJ Trimble are among the returners ready to lead the team back to prominence this season.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Team Ray water polo captains (L-R) Cooper Ashley, Austin Hallett and PJ Trimble are among the returners ready to lead the team back to prominence this season.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

A new coach and several returners want to return to the top.

Jeff Clark is back coaching the team he played for growing up – but he didn’t think it was possible.

“I never even thought about it,” the former Team Ray member said. “I moved back home (a few years ago) and I was with my parents for a few months and I was coming to (the) Masters (swim program) just to keep in shape.

“So (former Lady Ray coach) Steven Killpatrick asked if I want to coach, so I said sure, I’ll try it.”

So after becoming the girls’ JV coach, then the boys spring coach, and then the coach of Lady Ray when Killpatrick left in 2001, Clark takes over for Zoltan Tusnadi as Team Ray looks to return to the top for the 2007 season.

Last year, Ray had a tough go of it in the pool, winning few games and finishing eighth at state.

Clark noticed how much they struggled when he worked as an official at their home games.

“I could definitely see it last year,” he said. “There were a lot of little things they could have improved on.”

But he feels they have enough returners and some talented newcomers that can help them rebound this year.

Senior co-captain Cheyne Clark (no relation to Jeff) felt the same way after they lost to Bellevue 8-5 at the King County Aquatic Center Wednesday.

“They’re a pretty fast team with some good individual players,” he said of Bellevue, which took third at state last year. “But we put Austin (Hallett) on their top goal-scorer, and he got kicked out of the game with three ejections, so that made the game play a lot easier.”

Along with Cheyne and Hallett, a co-captain, senior co-captains PJ Trimble and Cooper Ashley, seniors Eli Jacobsen and Emile Stettler, juniors Eric Schuler and Kevin Brooks and sophomore Sam Pollock all return as well.

The new kids in the tank are sophomores David Ortyn, Bjorn Ostling and Matt Croxford.

It’s a small team but Jeff said he doesn’t see many weaknesses.

“We’re not very big, but we are fast,” he said. “We’re very fast.”

That speed comes from a majority of the team being on the swim team as well, with Hallett, Clark, Ortyn, Ashley and Brooks all making it to state last season.

Hallett also owns a majority of the school swimming records.

“We have a good mix of size and speed,” Jeff said. “There’s not one person that has to do all the gruntwork.

Jeff is also impressed with the leadership the three captains have shown.

“They’re definitely good leaders,” he said. “They’re know what they’re doing and they know how to set an example and show the other guys how to be playing.”

Cheyne said they’ve gotten acclimated to the coaching change.

“It’s a different style of coaching,” he said. “Jeff’s a much more vocal (coach) and he’s (a) much more instructional coach.

“Zoltan’s a great guy, but Jeff’s got such a background in water polo as a player and a coach,” Cheyne continued. “He knows how to get us to do something that he wants, whether it’s game play or practice.

“He communicates well and he’s tough on us. He doesn’t let us slide with anything.”

Jeff said the enthusiasm of the kids helps make things easier.

“Every once in a while you come into a season – any season – and the kids are there and they want to play” but there’s not much enthusiasm, he said.

“These kids are more fired up than I’ve ever seen a team before to really play and do well,” Jeff continued.

Clark said as soon as they work on gameplay – they’ve mainly conditioned – he thinks they’ll be right back in the hunt for a title.

“Once we figure out our defense and how to counterattack” we’ll be tough to beat, he said.

“I think that’s going to be a big part of our game is the counterattack,” he continued. “We don’t have many weak points.”

Team Ray plays league games on Wednesdays, but Jeff said he’s still working on scheduling games at home on Fridays.

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