Bainbridge submerges state competition

For the first time in 25 years, Bainbridge High School’s boys water polo team is officially the state champions.

Team members have said they unoffically won it during the COVID-19 season, but this is the first official one since 1996.

BHS sank the competition in winning the state title at Curtis High School in Tacoma last week, outscoring its opponents 54-21.

In the championship game, the Spartans submerged Newport 15-7. To get to that game, BHS trounced Roosevelt 21-6 and Mercer Island 18-8.

Spartan Kristin Gellert took home Coach of the Year honors, while Harrison Villella was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player, and Michael Bannister won the Goalie MVP award.

Ironically, Michael Bannister only made second team all-state. Villella, Oskar Bannister and Eamon Greathouse all made the first team. Spartan Jacque Defawe made the second team, and Finn Miller was honorable mention.

Newport was the only team to beat BI, as the Spartans finished 11-1 in league play, finishing first. But they also lost a game in the semifinals of the San Diego Invitational, where they placed third. Overall they were 24-2.

Villella, Defawe and Greathouse made first team all-league, both Bannisters made the second team, and R.J. Rossart was honorable mention.

Gellert said everyone contributed in winning the state title. “They played team ball, looking for each other, with no play for individual glory,” she said.

She said the title game was their best of the year. “We talked about continuing to improve through each quarter, keeping our minds mentally sharp and focusing on one play at a time,” Gellert said.

The coach said they worked hard for the crown, not just the past three months, “but over the years of training together with this goal in mind.”

They trained especially hard during COVID. When the pool was shut down, they wore wetsuits and swam in the frigid Puget Sound. “We did virtual workouts, and home gyms were heavily utilized,” too, their coach said.

When the pool reopened they weren’t allowed to pass the balls so they did months of individual work, improving technical skills. The team also spent hours upon hours in meetings and writing emails to get state government to allow the game to be played again. Using things like rapid testing, they were allowed to resume competition.

BHS went undefeated and beat defending state champion Curtis to claim the unofficial title last year as there was no official state tourney due to COVID.

“Going into this season, we wanted to finish the job,” Gellert said.

And they did.





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