Lowell leaves water polo

By Matt Phelps

Mercer Island High School girls water polo has been one of the most dominant teams in Washington during the past eight years. With seven state titles in that time period the program has a mark that very few have achieved.

Jeff Lowell has been at the helm for six of those championships, but the head coach is stepping away from the pool deck for the spring sport to have more time with his wife and three kids.

``I've got too much on my plate,'' said Lowell, who will continue to coach both the girls and boys swim teams and teach English at the high school, along with being the new athletic director at the Beach Club. ``It is the nature of the sport. It takes up full weekends and I don't see my family for an entire month. I never want to do things halfway.''

A friend of Lowell's recently tried to figure out how many students he had affected over the past seven years teaching and coaching during fall winter and spring at the high school.

``He speculated that it was about 450 kids every year,'' said Lowell. ``But I have learned just as much from them as they have learned from me.''

The coach recently became the head of the ASB and leadership class at the high school.

``My responsibilities are changing at school and it is a learning experience,'' said Lowell. ``I am not disappearing and I am (the girls water polo team's) biggest supporter and fan. I will be around to help who ever takes over.''

Coaching water polo has its challenges and differences from coacching swimming.

``The Xs and Os is something different for me,'' said Lowell. ``They were willing to buy into a system and they maximized their talents.''

One of the biggest differences between the Islander girls water polo team and other teams is the work the players put in during the off season.

``It says a lot about their work ethic,'' said Lowell.

Lowell's legacy is not just about championships.

``It has always been about education and personal growth,'' said Lowell. ``Its about always playing their best. The kids have really bought into it and they approach school the same way.''

Those championships have elevated the program to elite status. The Islanders seventh title, which it won last month, is just two behind Bainbridge Island for the most girls water polo championships in state history. In fact, Bainbridge Island and Mercer Island are the only two schools to win the state title, making the last game Lowell coached all the more special. Mercer Island had to come from behind this year during the championship game against Bainbridge Island to take the title 5-4.

``The parents on the Island have always been so supportive,'' said Lowell. ``I feel pretty lucky that I got to do this.''

Lowell said that he will still be involved in the sport through the Beach Club and he plans to do more officiating in the future. As for the future of the program Lowell said that it is bright for whoever takes over.

``They have an incredibly talented roster to work with.''

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