Poloists find new harmony this season

They’ve lost nine players from last year, but the team has some talent returning.

They’ve lost nine players from last year, but the team has some talent returning.

Things are quite different for the Bainbridge girls water polo team these days.

After several years of performing at a high level, head coach Jeff Clark admitted they will go through some rough spots this season.

“We lost a lot” of players from last season, he said. “We’re definitely in a rebuilding year.”

Lady Ray made it back to the state title game for the second straight year in 2006, but lost for the second straight time to arch-rival Mercer Island.

This season, they’re working with several new players while adjusting to the loss of nine seniors, most notably their two-time state MVP and leading scorer in Anne Scott.

“It’s really an adjustment for how we play as a team,” senior co-captain Jennifer Heinlen said. “We used to get the ball to Anne and not worry about it. (Now we think) ‘Who’s there for us?’ We have to do it ourselves now.”

Clark agreed.

“We definitely have to work much better as a team,” he said. “Last year – kind of to our detriment, almost – we relied on Anne too much. Sometimes everybody got out of the way, we’d get Anne the ball and we’d say, ‘go score.’

“This year we definitely have to do a lot more passing and communicating.”

To reach that level of communication will be made easier thanks to improved team chemistry.

“I think our team has never liked each other more (than this season,)” said senior co-captain Heather Schuler. “Everyone really gets along.”

“There’s no issues with anyone, which is really rare for a girls’ team,” Heinlen said. “There’s no drama this year. Everyone likes each other.”

Clark appreciates they get along better as well.

“We’re much more of a team than we’ve ever been,” he said. “Every girl knows what the other one is thinking and they communicate very well.

“It’s nice,” Clark continued. “I’d say most years there’s been some sort of drama. Most of these girls are friends and have been playing together for a lot of years.”

The players who have returned to play together include Heinlen, Schuler and senior co-captain Phoebe Lentz.

Also returning are seniors Mary Masla and Elisa Morris and juniors Martha Slicher and Gabi Goodlin.

Heinlen and Schuler both think she’s the one to best fill the void left by Scott.

“She’s great,” Heinlen said.

They also feel that a newcomer in freshman Jeanette Swanson can be a standout scorer as well.

Another newcomer that has stood out is sophomore goalkeeper Joanna Raustein.

Both captains refer to her by her nickname – “JoJo Monkey Arms.”

“She’s got really long arms, which is good for her (and the position she plays),” said Heinlen. “She’s never played goalie before.”

“And she’s really improved a lot,” said Schuler.

Clark thinks she’ll be one of the best in the state in due time.

“Joanna’s got a lot of talent and she’s got a lot of raw ability,” he said. “It’ll be good to have her for three years because she’s already pretty good but she’s going to be really good in a couple of years.”

Raustein was one of the bright spots in a dismal loss to Mercer Island a few weeks back.

“She didn’t make a ton of saves against Mercer, but she made a couple of tough saves (in the first quarter),” Clark said. “Then the ten saves (she made) against Shorewood (were amazing.) I don’t think I’ve ever had a rookie goalie make ten saves in a game. Most of her saves were pretty darn tough.”

While the team has a talented goalie and improved teamwork, they’ll have to keep their turnovers down (Clark estimated they turned it over 25 times against Mercer) as they don’t have the team speed as in year’s past.

But they still feel they can be amongst the top teams in the state when the tournament rolls through in May.

“I think we can be in the finals,” Heinlen said. “I feel like we haven’t reached our full potential yet.”

Lady Ray played Eastside Catholic yesterday. They play Roosevelt at home on Friday at the BIAC.