PORT ORCHARD — A program that has been making a splash down at the South Kitsap community pool over the past four years is ready to take their game to the next level.
The South Kitsap boys water polo team will take on Auburn-Riverside in the first round of the regional water polo playoffs, which begins on Friday, Nov. 3, at the aquatic center on the Curtis High School campus, qualifying for the first time in brief history.
Water polo is a sport that perhaps some have only seen during the Summer Olympics. It is an intense, grueling contact sport that challenges both the cardiovascular and physical endurance of the players. They must tread water the entire time they are in competition, while advancing the ball up and down the pool. Think soccer, but played in water and using your hands instead of feet.
“Water polo is a game of sprints intermixed with treading water while wrestling with an opponent for 28 minutes,” said South Kitsap head coach Zack Fogel. “To say It’s exhausting is an understatement. I would challenge the best athletes in any sport to give polo a try and see how they hold up.”
And for the past four years, the South Kitsap program has been building slowly, but surely, as more athletes make their way to the pool and embrace
Fogel said experience is still a weakness for his team, as many of the other teams competing in the 19-team 4A South Puget Sound League have players who participate in club water polo. Some members of the South Kitsap team have begun playing at the club level, and it is already producing positive results. Fogel and his staff, including, assistant coach Frank Casella, held two-a-day sessions and summer conditioning also helped the team build up its endurance to better compete physically.
“We don’t have a local club so my guys are coming to me with little or no experience,” said Fogel. “Some can barely swim. We hope to soon have a water polo club established here in South Kitsap.”
And this year, the team has made a huge jump. After winning just one game in 2016, South Kitsap won five, which put them in fourth in their division after finishing sixth the previous year, qualifying them for the post-season. With the exception of two losses to Bainbridge, the division champions, all of the team’s losses were close.
The team is led offensively by Lorenzo Cogoni, a senior who is an exchange student from Italy, and he is also an excellent defender.
Tending to the net is junior Garrett Coffin and he is protected by tough defenders Joseph Obnial, a junior, and senior Cory Stacy. Obinal also served as team captain along with Troy Conrad. The team places a premium on defense as Fogel is a former goalkeeper himself. Seniors Andrei Obnial, Andrew Johnson and Jacob Dutt have also been an important part of the team after showing great improvement over their years in the program.
The playoffs begin on Nov. 3. South Kitsap begins with the No. 1 seed from the Eastern Division, Auburn-Riverside at 4:15 p.m. The result of that match will see the Wolves either play again that night or on the following morning, Nov. 4.
“It will be a tough match, but just getting to play at regionals is already a win for us,” said Fogel. “We feel really good about our chances but don’t feel any pressure. Win or lose we have already had a great season.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.