Looking back at water polo this season it was a successful year as both teams set a program record in wins. The girls finished 7-7, (6-6) 4th in league and the boys were 5-10, (2-10) 6th in league. They were rewarded for their success with an on-campus pool that is scheduled to be ready for use in July.

“It means we can practice as much as we want to,” in a joint statement from girls’ head coach Phoebe Skelson and boys head coach Valerie Jamieson.

“The ability to have our own time and venue to have in-depth practices also, having a full depth pool will be a huge help. We could run [water polo] programs throughout the year, and maybe some day start a water polo club.”

During the program’s time at Patterson Aquatic Center, time seemed to be the main factor. Patterson water polo was only able to average an hour and a half of practice time every other day during the season, clearly not enough time to get players acclimated to a new sport while trying to improve and be competitive in a strong water polo conference.

“We’re grateful that the city welcomed the program with open arms and allowed us to use the PAC for as long as we need to, but a full depth pool will also help with our kid’s stamina.”

The only problem with using public property is at times training and practices can get delayed or be limited. Practices during the summer at the Patterson Aquatic Center are hard with the program only being able to practice twice a week from 7-8:30 a.m. due to various programs hosted at the venue.

With no summer program in the city coach Skelson, Jamieson, and assistants Gabriel Ortiz and Whitney Lindsey must teach kids the basics of the game and have them ready to play in a matter of weeks, with limited training.

A full depth pool would help with the players stamina because far too many times players got tired and had games slip away from them. It will also eliminate opponents’ ability to take advantage of the shallow end by scoring in significantly larger goal and loosely commit infractions by touching the bottom of the pool.

A water polo goal must be 2.4 meters from the bottom of the pool to the bottom of the top bar, and the shallow end on the PAC pool is 3.5 feet opposed to the deep end that is 12 feet, making the goal difference on each end significant.

The on-campus pool will also save Patterson Joint Unified School District $36,000 that went to the PAC for lifeguards to be on duty and maintenance. There were more challenges that each team faced on the water that made this season a hard-fought year. On the girls’ side depth was and will be the biggest concern.

This year’s team had to play several road games with no substitutes or players missing games due to illness. Even with those struggles the team progressively improved over the course of the season, shrinking margins of defeat, by being competitive against established programs like Merced and El Capitan; and sweeping Atwater and Livingston. The girls also losing six seniors that have played three or more years in the program.

“The kids listen to each other better sometimes, Kaeley [Wheeland] and Frances [Pierces] were great leaders for our team,” said Skelson.

The boys notoriously ended the season on an eight-game losing streak, lowlighted by the challenges of fatigue playing in a larger pool than at the PAC, playing several games with only one official, and had the Golden Valley game slip away in the closing minutes.

“The boys were able to be leaders during games and practices to have them [young players] ready to play,” said Jameison.

The teams healthy mix of young guys getting action along with the veterans to guide them lead to early success as the team started the season 5-2. Although the ending wasn’t ideal the experience was necessary because the boys’ team will be losing seven seniors that played in the program since its inception in 2018.

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