Playing water polo as a new program in the Central California Conference is a tough task.

The Tigers were reminded of this on Thursday, Oct. 24 against El Capitan High at the Patterson Aquatic Center when the girls and boys programs received 18-2 and 19-7 losses respectively.

The victory for the El Capitan girls water polo team was the final stroke on an undefeated 12-0 season in the CCC.

Forced through yet another trial by fire, the Patterson water polo program has continued to focus on growth and improvement in 2019.

The final home match was highlighted by the program honoring the 10 seniors with a ceremony and gifts.

Introspective improvement

Girls water polo head coach Phoebe Skelson shared that she was happy with the growth of her team this season.

“We have a lot more players with strong athletic ability and that has helped our team a lot. We are communicating better. We are improving our technical skills, even though we still need improvement,” Skelson said. “We are continuing to have good spirits and that support for each other and having a good time. That’s what I told them today, was to make sure they had a good time.”

Suffering an 18-2 loss was yet another reminder of the work that still lies ahead for the girls squad heading into 2020.

“I remember thinking in the middle of the game, ‘oh yeah this is pretty much how every game felt last year,’” Skelson shared following the loss. “It definitely gives us perspective.” 

Skelson said following the conclusion of the season that she plans to continue to network and improve as a coach herself. She shared that the water polo community has been very supportive, and she felt a need to return to focusing even more on personal growth rather than just the results of their matches.

“I think last year I really focused on winning not as a measure of the main success. That was important to keep the morale up,” Skelson said. “I feel like I have to get back to defining other successes other than our score.”

Healthy mindset

Head coach Valerie Jamieson remains determined to keep the boys water polo program pushing. She shared that 2019 was an important developmental period for the team, and has only strengthened the resolve of the entire program to keep forging ahead despite winning in the CCC continuing to be a challenge.

“Seeing how much they’ve grown this year, even with as many new players as we have, has helped instill confidence in me and our ability to build a program that’s going to be competitive and viable,” Jamieson said. “When we are playing a league of this caliber, it was a big question mark. I think we played hard every single game. We didn’t play our best every game, but we played hard every game. Everything I’ve seen from these kids has given me confidence that this is going to work.”

She shared that the team has juggled going out every outing with the intention of winning with the reality that there are still going to be a lot of setbacks, and to take those setbacks in stride.

While the CCC has been a tough environment for the Tigers’ players, ultimately Jamieson hopes to see her team use that experience to harden rather than hinder them.

“Playing against players that are bigger than we are makes longevity a little more difficult, but also just trying to keep the morale up and keep them focused on enjoying the game, but also being incredibly competitive,” Jamieson said. “Learning to balance that mindset is of course a challenge, but I think that they are doing well in just putting whatever happened behind them and just going 100 percent. I think that level of competition makes it hard for longevity and building a mindset, but it also gives us an opportunity to build a mindset that we may not otherwise have, and it gives us an opportunity to build character that we might not otherwise have.”

Seniors final swim

For 11 seniors in the water polo program, last Thursday’s match was the final time they would play at the Patterson Aquatic Center.

Each senior received a goodie bag, a poster of themselves, and a commemorative mini water polo ball.

Seniors were given some play time during the game, and were honored afterward with a ceremony. As is custom, the seniors also got even by dragging (rather forcibly) each other and coaches Skelson and Jamieson into the pool to commemorate their final home match.

Those seniors were: Brisa Salas, Stephanie Camarillo, Carla Contreras, Arianna Laguio, Arleth Cervantes, Dominik Gutierrez, Isaiah Gallegos, Kevin Valadez, Lenen Garcilazo, Eric Briggs, and Sebastian Franco.

PI sports writer

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