Oak Ridge water polo ready for competition

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Expectations are high for Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls’ water polo team, while the varsity boys’ team is in more of a building phase, according to Coach Patrick Foster.

The girls’ team, featuring key returning players Rachael Kowalchick, Chloe Nichols and Lauren Tilley, has a strong core with several younger players filling in around them.

Foster is excited for the season.

“I feel we have a solid team with the girls and we should be pretty good,” Foster said. “On paper, this team is better than last year’s team and could have a really good season but we shall see.”

Kowalchick led the team a year ago with 64 goals. Nichols and Tilley were second and third on the team with 24 and 19 goals, respectively. The threesome accounted for 70 percent of the team’s goals a year ago. The girls also were the top three in assists. Tilley led the way with 30, while Kowalchick had 14 and Nichols, 13.

New to the team are the goalkeepers: Sophomore Bailey Hofacre and freshman Katherine Hampton.

On the boys’ side, junior Ethan Horn and sophomore Luke Van Voris will handle play in front of the net.

“I’ve been impressed with all of our goalies on both teams,” Foster said. “They’ve all played well and looked good.”

The varsity boys have two players returning who reached double digits in goals last year, as Garrett Hassian and Caleb Thoms both scored 24 goals a season ago. Those numbers should increase this season, as they lead the offensive attack.

“The boys’ team is in more of a developing phase,” Foster said. “We’ve got a big senior class and high numbers so the program is building. Ryan Carpenter, Kaleb Thoms and Garrett Hassian lead the team. They have stepped up as vocal leaders and we’re going to lean on them.”

Both teams have gotten off to a slow start. The boys were drilled by powerhouse Jesuit, 21-4, while both teams lost to Rio Americano Sept. 5, the girls losing 14-4 and the boys falling 12-3.

“Those were tough games against Rio,” Foster said. “We never bowed down to them and continued to play hard. I like playing good teams like Rio because they make us work and we learn things from those games and that helps us. We’re going to keep plugging away.”

Foster said the teams look to be competitive in the Sierra Foothill League. Foster expects Granite Bay to be the main competition, while also saying that Rocklin looks good on the boys’ side. Both teams benefit from seeing a solid Woodcreek program leave the SFL with realignment.