Sports

Girls water polo open state competition

Mercer Island’s Michelle Na chases down the ball against Auburn-Mountainview Thursday, May 15 at Mary Wayte Pool.  - Joseph Livarchik/Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island’s Michelle Na chases down the ball against Auburn-Mountainview Thursday, May 15 at Mary Wayte Pool.
— image credit: Joseph Livarchik/Mercer Island Reporter

At the beginning of the season, girls water polo coach Andrew Smith-Jones knew he had a young team, having only one senior and twelve girls who had never played before. So he decided to tell his team to have fun.

“One thing that I’ve preached to them since day one is we’re going to have fun but we’re going to work hard,” he said. “Every single day, especially with 12 girls never playing before, we’re having a lot of fun, but at the same time working hard and trying to improve. We had really good improvement from our first game at Bainbridge, which we won, to our last league game at Bellevue, and we were able to win a close one there.”

The Islanders seem to be having fun as they compete in the girls water polo state tournament, splitting its games in the first two rounds. The Islanders opened competition with a 9-7 win over Auburn Riverside before falling in the second round to Curtis High School. At the Reporter deadline, the Islanders had one more tournament matchup with Curtis.

Heading into the tournament, Smith-Jones felt good about the Islanders’ chances, saying his team might take a few teams by surprise.

“Other teams don’t really think highly of us up here. They’re probably thinking, ‘oh, it’s going to be an easy matchup,’ whereas I think we’re very much ready to go and make a big splash.”

The Mercer Island coach said he’s been encouraged by watching his team battle and fight through the season while also showing resilience after tough losses, with their inexperience being the team’s biggest weakness.

“It’s just about building more and more experience and over time, maybe not this year for state, but next year or the year after,” he said. “Especially with these freshman or sophomores that have more time to grow within the sport, which as a coach, I’m super excited to see what happens. Seeing improvement as a coach is phenomenal, you can’t ask for anything more.”

 

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