Everyone back in the pool — water polo season for both boys and girls is underway in 2021.
Water polo has been one of the harder-hit sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, a high-contact sport that couldn’t have competitions in the early phases of the state’s reopening plan. Even in Phase 3, testing is still rigorous, similar to the process high school wrestling teams follow.
But when the time finally came for those first full practices, athletes and coaches alike were just happy to put those polo caps back on and get to work.
“The first day that we had full contact polo practice, and we scrimmaged, the kids were beside themselves,” Bainbridge girls coach Joy Miller said. “They were really thrilled.”
Boys water polo is normally a fall sport, while girls water polo is in the spring — schools in Washington are in the midst of regular seasons for traditional “winter” sports. But competitions for high-contact sports weren’t allowed until Phase 3, so they couldn’t be played during their normal season.
With both the boys and girls playing at the same time, some schools are opting to play varsity doubleheaders, such as the games held between Bainbridge and South Kitsap last weekend at the South Kitsap Community Pool.
The more-experienced Bainbridge teams prevailed as the boys won 13-1, and the girls won 13-3. Bainbridge has its own club teams at the island’s aquatic center while South Kitsap has far more players who are new to the sport.
“A lot of my experienced players didn’t come back this year,” said South Kitsap boys and girls coach Zack Fogel, noting that many of his seniors got jobs since schools went to remote learning to save up money for college.
In the boys game, the Spartans got off to a quick start as Cameron Smit scored the match’s first goal after about 1 minute, 55 seconds when he caught a long pass from keeper Michael Bannister and found himself ahead of the defense for a clean look at the net.
Four more goals followed in quick succession — two from Micah Webber, and one each from Lucca Dattilo and Rylan Hopp. Webber finished with five goals, while Smit chipped in four.
Webber, Smit and Hopp also scored in the second quarter, as did Zane Wright, who made it 9-0 in favor of Bainbridge.
South Kitsap got its lone goal in the second quarter as Hank Spangler made a pass to Logan Wood to create a good opportunity, and Wood finished it.
Bainbridge added two more goals in the third, and one more in the fourth to finish off the game.
In the second half of the doubleheader, the girls got off to a similar start as Kristina DuPont scored for Bainbridge just 10 seconds into the match.
The Spartans were highly-efficient in their offensive attack, pouring in nine goals in the first quarter. Zoe Gaccioch, Maja Carroll and Kylie Jones all scored twice, while Lillia Manges and Grace Pratt added one goal apiece. Zoe Byrne scored for South Kitsap with 2:41 left to play, and Bainbridge led 9-1 after the first quarter.
South Kitsap junior Regina Obnial scored the only goal of the second quarter, but then Bainbridge picked up three more in the third — two from Carroll and one from DuPont. Alexandria Brooks also scored for South Kitsap, and Bainbridge was up 12-3 after three.