After a robust 2017-2018 season led by a core group of seniors, the girls’ varsity water polo team faces adversity for this upcoming year. The team lost four out of their six starting players, requiring the girls to compensate with fresh talent and hard work.
According to senior captain Makenzie Allen, the team has found ways to make up for the loss of their top players with additional practices among other strategies.
“Last year we had a lot of natural talent. This year we have to try harder and train harder. We’re going to start having morning practices,” Allen said.
Head coach Kirsten Frazer has been coaching at Redwood for five years, and reiterated the girls’ commitment and dedication.
“Each year it’s an adjustment to losing certain players and positions. It’s about who’s going to fill in and step up in those positions. It’s just a matter of seeing where everyone fits together. So far they all mesh well together,” Frazer said.
To replace the talent lost from graduating seniors, the varsity team has gained seven new players, both incoming freshmen and previous junior varsity players. Despite a history of excluding freshmen from varsity, the team has introduced two freshmen, Gwen Kallmeyer and Libby Hughes, who will be significant contributors to the team’s success according to Frazer.
“The big difference between those two [Hughes and Kallmeyer] and previous freshmen is that they’ve been playing water polo for a few years now, and having ample experience and knowledge of the game has helped them step up into varsity right away,” Frazer said.
According to Kallmeyer, it’s meaningful to be chosen as underclassman for varsity, but the new environment can be overwhelming at times.
“It’s intimidating, especially [when] playing on a team with a lot of older girls. It’s an honor to be on a team like this because it’s a higher level with different ages than a team you would usually play on,” Kallmeyer said.
Kallmeyer attributes the welcoming environment and the team’s chemistry towards seniors sense of leadership.
“Our new team captain, Makenzie Allen, is a good leader. The team spends a lot of time with each other because we practice every day and do other things outside of the pool. We’re getting to know each other well,” Kallmeyer said.
Despite players filling in leadership positions, MCALs will become even more competitive following newly implemented rules limiting the number of qualifying schools from six to four teams. This generates increasing pressure on the team to perform well in their games. The team continues to train rigorously in preparation for games ahead, but they also remain realistic in their goals for the season. Allen explained that other schools such as Drake can’t be matched, due to their stronger club feeder system that develops experienced players. Sleepy Hollow Aquatics (SHAQ) is a club team that trains year round, and the majority of SHAQ players filter into Drake’s team, making them a strong competitor during the high school season.
The team’s opening game is against San Rafael on Sept. 27 at Redwood at 5 p.m .