The Lions girls water polo team was one of three Bay Valley Athletic League squads that qualified for the North Coast Section playoffs in 2010. They split their two matches against Freedom and ran the table for the rest of the league season – as did Freedom. The Lions won the tiebreaker, earning them the higher playoff seed, by virtue of beating Freedom in the teams’ second confrontation.
Liberty’s season screeched to an abrupt halt in the first round of the playoffs in a 20-6 loss to Mission San Jose. Gone from that team is leading scorer and two-time league MVP Lindsay Hull and defensive specialist Jessica Rodriguez. Replacing them are captains Paige Lange, Rebecca Day and Ashton Lunger – all in their fourth year on head coach Chris Rose’s varsity team.
“They know the system and know expectations for the team,” Rose said. They’re doing an excellent job providing leadership. I’m excited about the team and impressed with their work ethic and dedication. They’re shooting for the common goal of winning the league title.”
While Lange, Day, and Lunger are the most experienced players, they’re not the only ones who know Rose’s system. Nine of the team’s 14 players are seniors. One of them, goalie Megan Abreu, will share time with junior goalie Morgan Richey.
“Our goal is to contend for league title again,” said Rose. “We have as good a shot as any. We have experienced senior girls coming back on the team, as well as a good group of juniors and sophomores.”
Freedom’s co-BVAL championship team was loaded with seniors, the most notable being senior Taylor Henry, the Falcons’ leading scorer and co-league MVP with Hull. The 2010 team lost its playoff game 9-7 to Clayton Valley.
This year, the Falcons’ only senior will be Emily Pels. Head coach Lindsay Bell expects strong play from juniors Anna Carter, Adrianna Subias and Maddie Ridl, plus sophomore Jamie Roeder. Another key departure is goalie Amanda Jennings. Replacing her is sophomore J.J. Matous.
“We should do OK,” Bell said. “It’s definitely not going to be the huge success that we had last year, but it won’t be disappointing. We’re looking to get these girls more experience at the varsity level.”
Bell believes the competitiveness throughout the league will be as good as she’s seen in her four years as Freedom’s coach. Many of her players participated in the inaugural season of the Oakwood water polo program – open to players throughout East County – and other winter and summer club teams.
The likely impact of Henry’s departure will be a lower-scoring Falcon team. Still, Bell likes her squad’s overall look, especially on defense. “Defensively we should do well,” she said. “Offensively we may struggle a bit trying to find someone who can step up and fill those shoes.”
As only two players from the 2010 roster were lost to graduation, the Patriots team that Foothill eliminated in the first round of the postseason is largely intact. Head coach Carol Bronzan is optimistic about this season.
Senior Caitlyn Freeman and junior Caitlin Cook were the squad’s two leading scorers, and both return. Also returning is junior Emma Formato, who earned All-League Honorable Mention status in 2010. All three players are also strong defenders. Junior Goalie Caitlin Bronzan also returns from last year. Freeman, Cook, and Bronzan received team MVP honors. Freeman was a first team All-League player, while Bronzan and Cook were named to the second team.
“We have a lot of strong returning players,” Carol Bronzan wrote in an e-mail. “We are looking forward to a strong season, probably the strongest the Heritage girls have seen in recent years.”
As with many local teams, the Patriots’ offseason featured increased club play, which should bolster their quest to return to the playoffs. “We have many returning varsity players,” Bronzan said. “Many of the girls played for club teams during the winter and summer, so are returning to the high school season much improved.”
Despite the 2010 Wolverines’ lack of depth, the team recorded a respectable season. The 2011 team will be led by All-League senior Dana Stormes and sophomore twins Vicki and Tricia Talens. Seniors Stormes and Cami Chica will captain the girls team. Head coach Kiel Olff is excited about the more experienced lineup.
“The girls team is pretty small in stature but very quick up and down the pool,” Olff said. “Hopefully we can use the fast breaks to our advantage and score some speed goals.”
While Deer Valley has a new face in net, the name is part of the school’s water polo legacy: sophomore Sara Donohue – sister of 2009 BVAL MVP Megan Donohue – will be her team’s last line of defense.
Senior captain Amanda Loomis will lead Nick Plurkowski’s Panthers, who will strive to elevate their status in the league standings. “We’re hoping to contend,” Plurkowski said. “We have a lot of non-league games. So we’re hoping to get outside early and bring what we’ve learned back to the league.”
Two key players expected to aid and abet in the improvement are sophomore Shelbi Graifman and freshman Megan Fuhrmann.
The inexperience of Antioch’s 2010 team has been rectified. Summer competition has helped the Panthers find a better approach to the game and work better as a team. And Antioch finally has a home pool – though not in a traditional sense. Last year, the Panthers played only one home game (boys and girls) because their pool at Pittsburg’s Los Medanos College wasn’t set up for water polo until the end of the year.
Despite the disadvantage of playing home games in Pittsburg, Antioch will have LMC’s pool at their disposal for the entire season, meaning that opponents will be true “visitors.”
“Playing at LMC is great,” Plurkowski said. “It’s an amazing facility and we’re all glad to be there.”