Keeping cool under water pressure

Sophomore Brooke Hallett rears back for a shot in practice. - RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo
Sophomore Brooke Hallett rears back for a shot in practice.
— image credit: RYAN SCHIERLING/Staff Photo

The Bainbridge water polo team – a.k.a. Team Ray – opens its season tomorrow with a decidedly new look, as 12 of last year’s 15 varsity players are gone. That number includes the top eight goal scorers from the team that compiled a 10-10 record and placed sixth in the state tournament.

“We lost 80 percent of our team,”said coach Jeff Clark. “That’s a big hit.”

But Bainbridge isn’t alone in that respect.

“Curtis, Kentridge, Wilson – they all lost big-time too,” Clark continued. “Newport is the only team that didn’t lose at least half of their players from last year.”

And Bellevue – ninth at state last year and Team Ray’s rival in tomorrow night’s 8:30 game at the Ray Williamson pool – “lost their most dominating player,” said Clark.

“We’ll still be competitive,” Clark maintained. “We had a lot of individual strengths last year, but I see us working better as a team this year.”

The three returning players – all seniors – are Natalie Berry, Jasmine DuPont and Meghan Lockwood.

Berry’s 38 steals were third on the team last year, and she tallied six goals.

“She was hurt most of last year,” said Clark. “Now she’s 100 percent right off the bat.”

Lockwood had two goals en route to accumulating a lot of playing time as a junior, and is one of the team’s co-captains.

“Jasmine started at goalie as a sophomore,” said Clark. “That’s incredible.” She had a record of allowing just over six goals per game last year.

The other co-captain is senior Elizabeth Bailey, who had 28 goals, 24 steals and a dozen assists with the JVs last year.

Another key addition from the JV team is junior Laurynn Wells. “I expect her to pick up a lot of the scoring slack,” Clark said. She had 40 steals and 20 goals last year.

Other team members include senior Gretchen Pedersen and juniors Meredith Hong, Virginia Houston, Candace Rodda, Anna Schuler and Lydia Wright. Sophomore Joy Miller jumps to varsity from last year’s White, or C, team, where she scored seven goals and had 16 assists. Another sophomore, Kristin Swanson, is a transfer from San Diego.

Team Ray competes in one of four leagues, with the top two teams from each league automatically qualifying for the 12-team state tournament. The third through fifth place teams in each league enter a wild-card tournament for the four remaining berths.

Clark sees Wilson as the team’s primary competition within its league. Team Ray will get an early taste of the Rams’ ability on Saturday when they travel to Tacoma for a non-counting game.

Other league teams include Peninsula and relatively new programs at Central Kitsap, Foss, Gig Harbor and Stadium. Two tournaments on successive weekends in late April – the first of which is here – will play a major role in determining the league standings.

Gold, or JV, coach Mead Trick faces a rebuilding year after the bulk of his team was promoted to the varsity. The team compiled a 9-4 record last year.

“Skills-wise, they’ve all played a couple of years,” he said of his players. “They’re all a solid group of swimmers.”

The team includes juniors Alexis Folse, Mikki Holt, Tara McNulty, Ciera Truscott, Zoe Wadkins and Lisa Weigle, and sophomores Laura Browne, Laura Gardiner, Brooke Hallett, Catherine Powers, Jenna Santelli, Anna Sperling and Julia Sullivan.

Forrest Wells, the new White coach, is in his first year of coaching girls after having previously worked with boys’ teams. He noted that his team has “a strong swim background. Many of the girls have swum competitively.”

His team of sophomore Katie Mathews and freshmen Roberta Chien, Erin Clune, Kristen Gore, Sara Johnson, Sarah Kersten, Valerie MacKinnon, Emma Mueller, Jackie Sudgen and Vanessa Wagner hopes to improve on last year’s 2-5 mark.

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