The Bainbridge High School varsity boys water polo team escaped from a slow start to claim a decisive 19-8 win against the visitors from Newport High in their first match of the season Tuesday, Sept. 10.
The Knights are reportedly seen as a Top 4 contender this year, and, as such, it was a crucial early test for the Spartans (themselves a pretty perpetual postseason presence), according to BHS Head Coach Kristin Gellert.
“I’m glad that it ended with the score I was looking for at the beginning,” she said, adding that the switch from club to regular season gameplay tends to require a period of adjustment for the players.
“I think going from club water polo games, which are maybe 5-minute quarters, to 7-minute quarters, the game feels a little long,” Gellert said. “And so part way through the third quarter, you start to get a little frantic, thinking it’s the end of the game. They were able to pull it out, but we talked a lot after the game about things we need to be working on moving forward. And that’s what these early games are all about.”
Despite the bumpy beginning, the Spartans had several stellar performances to celebrate.
Sophomore Harrison Villella led the island squad’s scoring efforts Tuesday, racking up five goals on 11 attempts.
Both Gabe Nathan and Jacques Defawe managed four goals throughout the contest, and Nate Lapin put in three.
Thomas Defawe, Oskar Bannister and Eamon Greathouse all chipped in one goal apiece.
Thomas also led the team in assists (four).
There were two primary takeaways for the team in the wake of the Newport win, Gellert said.
“Energy and patience,” the coach said. “Not rushing things … it’s really hard for the other team to score when you have the ball, so hold on to it as long as you can, right?
“And keeping up the energy and pumping each other up.”
Tuesday’s match saw a large and boisterous crowd pack themselves into the aquatic center, replete with homemade signs and sporting Spartan duds.
Such support, Gellert said, is endemic of the island water sports community — and much appreciated by both herself and the players.
“I’m glad to see it,” she said. “The families in our program are incredible and they’re so supportive, and I saw some alumni out there, which is always fun to see.
“I love our fan base,” she added. “I always hope for that turnout and it’s exciting when it happens.”
The Spartans again played host Thursday, Sept. 12, and battled visitors from Roosevelt, and will next be at home at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17 to face off against Curtis (expected to be one of their toughest rivals this season).