by Roger Wistar
A tenacious focus on defense, combined with increasing talent and a new head coach, all have the arrow continuing to point up for the girls water polo team this season.
"The girls are starting to recognize that this program is not in its early stages any more," said new head coach John McBratney. "We want to work a lot this season on building up our confidence."
McBratney joins the program after standout careers for both the swimming and water polo teams at Hamilton College. He joins veteran water polo coach Heather Perrenoud, who had led the team for the past two years.
"He is passionate about the team and adds a different perspective to the game of water polo," said co-captain Caroline Doggett '17. "Having these two as our coaches adds a great dynamic and energy to the pool deck."
Thus far early results are very promising. After losing a nail-biter in the opener 2-4 to Loomis, the team rebounded with a 6-5 victory over Deerfield. Even more promising, the Bearcats (1-2) were tied 8-8 with Greenwich Academy before falling in the fourth quarter. Last year GA won the same game by more than 10.
For McBratney, the key to victory begins with defense and winning the turnover battle. The Bearcats will look to pressure its opponents while minimizing the number of fouls given and free restarts, trying to run out the shot clock and force difficult shots, he said.
"If we can limit scoring opportunities for the other team, we'll find offense during the season," he said.
Doggett agreed, saying that the Bearcats will look to be more aggressive with the ball. "We just need to build our confidence and take shots. The more shots we can take, the more likely we are to make them!" she said.
With 10 Seniors and Upper Mids, most of whom with multiple seasons on the roster, the Bearcats can spend less time on the fundamentals of the sport and more time on team strategy, added Doggett.
Already the team is fortunate to have lots of swimmers who can move well on offense, said McBratney. The Bearcats hope to incorporate plays to make good use of that advantage, moving swimmers rather than moving the ball, he added.
Another point of emphasis this year will be the team's fitness, said McBratney. "Because water polo is such a physical sport and quite different from swimming, we have to do a lot of conditioning to maintain a high level of intensity through four quarters," he said.