The game ended like any other.
The Bainbridge Spartans were gathered on deck as the last ripples of a hard-fought contest died out and disappeared at pool’s edge.
Inside the circle of Spartans, there were smiles, shouts and cheers.
The fervor followed the finish of Bainbridge’s second-round matchup against Ingraham in the 2019 Washington state girls water polo tournament at Curtis High.
Though the Spartans fell to the Rams, 13-9, the Bainbridge girls gathered like they did after every game. And though the defeat was the second in a row for Bainbridge in the state tournament — it followed the opening-round 12-9 loss to Newport — there was no gloom in the room.
Bainbridge Head Coach Kristin Gellert said that after each game, the team gathers to do “shout outs” for the girls.
“No matter how the game ends, win or lose, we still acknowledge each other and things that we did well and how hard the effort,” Gellert said.
“It’s a way to kind of, not to brush off a loss, but overcome it as a team.”
Bainbridge did just that, bouncing back from a super competitive game against Newport to throw a sizable scare into Ingraham the next day.
The Spartans led during the first half of the second-round contest, but fell behind after the Rams scored quickly following a few timeouts, grabbed a small lead, and built on it through the third and fourth quarters.
Still, the Spartans never tried to float through to the finish.
“I told them that I was proud of the fact that at no point in that game did anybody give up. No matter what the score was, nobody stopped trying,” Gellert said.
The Spartans continued in consolation play on Saturday, and at the end of the tournament, emerged with eighth place at State.
It was the same finish the team found itself after last year’s state tournament.
And that, in itself, was a bit of a surprise.
The Spartans entered state play hopeful, but well aware they would be matched up against less familiar Division 1 squads.
“Coming from last year where we got eighth pretty handily, it feels nice to be competitive this year,” Gellert said about the raised level of play.
Even so, the end of this year’s campaign leaves plenty of optimism for next year.
“We have a really young team, so it’s promising for future years.
“The girls said at one point in the season, win or lose it’s just more fun to play close games. It’s great experience for next year,” the coach added.
“We always say, ‘You either win or you learn.’ So there’s great opportunities for water polo learning — and just life.”
Before the start of the state tournament, Gellert reminded the team of their stellar season. It was one that started with a five-game win streak, and, after a loss to powerhouse Curtis, a string of seven more victories.
“Before state started, I said that no matter what happens, I’m super proud of them and what we’ve accomplished and I’m honored to be part of their team,” Gellert said.