Mercer Island finding balance in the pool | Girls water polo

After three years of coaching at Mercer Island High School, this spring’s girls water polo team could be one of the most balanced that Matt Jones has had. The team, which includes nine seniors, is finding its balance and depth in the pool.

“We’re very senior-heavy and because we have nine girls who have been playing together, we don’t necessarily have any superstars. We have a lot of balance and are pretty deep as a team,” said Jones.

With that strong balance across the roster, Jones said one of the things the team has been working on early in the season is making sure everyone knows where they fit and that they can make the big play.

“As we go on toward the end of our season, I see us being really dynamic in the sense that we can attack from many different players,” said the coach. “Some people don’t really see themselves as an attacker, or we have someone who scores a big goal or makes a big stop defensively, and they will — we have to have them see that, and I think our team is going to be very good as we get more dynamic.”

Senior captain Briauna Azer hopes that depth will allow the team to fulfill their goals, specifically state.

“Our big goal is always to get to state,” said the center. “We’re working on filling spots and being vocal. It’s been going really good. We’re a pretty deep team with talented players.” She is joined this season by senior captains Lizzie Tao and Laura Remy.

Early in the season the Islanders were 1-1, with a loss to Shorewood, one of the top teams in the league.

“We played well, but the score just wasn’t in our favor, and then we played against OAC and that was a good game for us; it was kind of opposite,” said Jones. “We were pretty dominant in the game. It was a good experience to have, a very low and a very high (game). That’s kind of the way our league is. We have a few strong teams and a few weaker teams. We just need to play up against the stronger teams and still try and do the best we can against the weaker teams.”

The team will be looking forward to a rematch against Shorewood, along with the match against Newport.

One of the major things the team has been working on is offense and attacking the goal. Jones said he tends to be a defensive coach and that was a major focus last season. This year, he wants to fill in the teams gaps in knowledge on the offense side.

“We’ve stayed away from doing too much of the defensive stuff because the girls who were on the team last year understand that part, and they need to get the offensive stuff,” he said.

While the league has its ups and downs, Jones said the Islanders will need to have a strong learning curve.

“Learn from mistakes and limit mistakes, and everyone play to their best ability and best effort,” said Jones of what it takes to be successful in the league. “Essentially that’s what it’s going to come down to. If we can get 10 girls on varsity and a couple girls on JV who will play up at the end of the season, and we can get everyone playing to their best ability and playing dynamically as a team I think we can do pretty well.”

From now until the end of the season, Jones said it’s working together and getting better each day that’s going to make the biggest difference.

“Our goal is kind of to get everyone to exceed their playing ability a little bit and try to get the overall team to become a little bit better each and every day,” he said.

The Islanders will take on Newport on April 19, and will face Bainbridge on April 12.

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