They’re building a foundation from the pool up.
A year after a winless inaugural season, South Kitsap’s boys water polo team has something to be excited about: its first win in program history.
And as far as the players are concerned, the 17-13 victory over Peninsula on Sept. 16 is only the beginning.
“That was a great, great game,” said first-year coach Zack Fogel, who took over from Dennis Anderson and also coaches the girls’ team. “It was really fun to watch the boys.
“Watching a bunch of big, strapping teenage boys high-fiving each other, giving each other hugs and drowning each other in the pool because they were so excited was a lot of fun.
Whatever success the Wolves have this season can largely be attributed to Italian exchange student Giacomo Bressanello, who Fogel refers to as “our ringer.”
Bressanello is so skilled that Gig Harbor, who beat South on Sept. 14, called Peninsula to warn them before their match.
“It’s like having LeBron James on your team,” said senior Willy Sydenstricker. “I know that’s a big statement … but it’s very visible the effect he’s had on the team.”
Fogel said Bressanello, a junior, benefits the Wolves in multiple ways.
“His play brings everyone else along,” he said. “Other teams have to focus on him, so it lets everyone else shine a little bit more. And they’re learning from him.”
Bressanello, who tallied 18 goals in South’s first two games, is rather nonchalant about his star status.
“I’ve played since I was 10 or 11,” he said. “It’s different. In Italy it’s harder.”
Other returning standouts are senior Nils Johnson, who Fogel calls “a great kid and good player,” and Sydenstricker, who is “playing strong in the goal.”
Fogel said last year’s winless record didn’t demoralize the team. If anything, it had the opposite effect.
“I don’t know if we had to do any confidence-building,” he said. “The kids were really excited (and) I think they saw that with the girls’ team we had some success.”
Having a year of experience is paying off: 30 boys turned out this season, about three-quarters of whom are on South’s swim team.
“I think they’re learning a lot this year and it’s really showing in their games,” Fogel said. “It’s been a positive experience all around.”
But Fogel did acknowledge that building a program is a slow process.
“We don’t have a lot of support or interest in the area,” he said, “but it’s growing.”
Sydenstricker said the win against Peninsula was surreal.
“It was amazing,” he said. “You don’t even know what it feels like to win in water polo.
And the key to continuing to win is simple, Fogel said.
“We just need to get more experience,” he said. “Water polo is a game you have to play a lot to get good at.”