Sports

Poloists ready for life after Killpack

"For Bainbridge water polo, it's a brave new world - the first season ever without program founder and legendary coach Steve Killpack.But the new varsity coach and his young roster are looking forward to establishing their own identity.I'm really excited, said Jeff Clark about his impending first year as head coach of the program. It's going to be really interesting and a lot of fun.A 1993 Bainbridge High School graduate, Clark is a little nervous about replacing Killpack.I know I've got big shoes to fill, but I think I'm ready, he said. Steve wouldn't have picked me if he didn't see something in me.The varsity team lost 13 seniors last year, and has only three returners, making a nine-man team, including a sophomore hole-set player, Nate Rooks. Nate's huge, Clark said, but I'll have some senior guys playing the position as well. I don't want to throw him to the wolves.Junior varsity is also young, with two juniors and twelve sophomores, while the C team only has three members who have played before.Yeah, we're small, said Clark, but we're fast. We'll keep the movement going and create confusion - that's when we'll score.Junior varsity coach Mead Trick, also a 1993 BHS graduate, says bulk isn't everything.What we lack in size, we'll make up for in speed and ball-handling skills, he said.Prominent varsity players this year include Jeff Christiansen, who played on last year's state-tournament team, as well as Erik Steinecker and Andrew Sperling, who have significant experience in the water.Clark is looking forward to watching the growth of new goalie Adam Gunn.He's had three years to prepare, Clark said, and now I think he's ready to be in a varsity goal.Clark is also pleased with the program's popularity. Lacrosse and water polo are alternative sports, not quite the mainstream, he said. So when people get bored with football or baseball, they sometimes come to water polo.Senior John Merkel agrees. You have passing and all the other stuff of a land game, Merkel said. But all you see is someone's head, everything else is below the water, so it's a different perspective.Merkel also acknowledged the team's stiff competition. It's going to be hard for us this year, he said. But we have to work hard and hope for the best.Despite the coming challenges, Merkel is ready for the season.I'm just looking forward to playing some games, he said. I just want to play polo.Clark thinks he's up to the tasks ahead. I love the kids, I play the game as much as I can, and I'm going to have fun, he said. We'll still be in the top two at state - I hope. Whenever we have trouble, we always seem to bounce back. "

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