Water polo squad struggle with openers

Sweet Home’s inexperienced water polo teams opened the year with two losses each as they struggle to find their team identity.

The girls were defeated by a two school combined Albany team 18-9 and then were outscored by Redmond last Saturday, 16-5. Krystle Streight, who did not score a goal last year, was the strength of the team with 5 goals in each game for the Huskies. Amber Larsen, who started as the hole player in the Albany game, had difficulty getting open, so Streight read the situation well and became offensive minded. Larsen, Ashley Andersen, and Nichole Martin also scored goals. Larsen led the defense, but the Huskies tired against a 20 person Albany team that could sub at will.

Against Redmond, Streight kept Sweet Home close in the first quarter as she took on the role in the two meter spot and scored all five Husky goals.

“She has made a complete turn around from last year,” said Coach Rene Kirkland.

Kirkland liked what she saw early in the game, but Redmond’s defense kept the young Huskies from maintaining possession on a consistent basis. Liz Andersen continued to improve in the goal for Sweet Home. She had nine saves against Albany and 18 versus Redmond. Then she went on to play in the boys’ game and notched another 8 saves in two quarters as their deep end goalie.

The boys had an equally difficult time with Albany, losing 22-6. A highly skilled and inexperienced team, Albany put great pressure on the Huskies’ best players. They were able to steal the ball from underneath and capitalize on numerous fast breaks. Sean Martin led Sweet Home with four goals.

Against Redmond, the boys were much more composed and kept the score close until the fourth quarter. After falling behind on two fast break goals, Kirkland called timeout and the boys calmed down to take a 4-3 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Larry Coulter fired in two goals from the right side followed by deep center shot by Martin and a last second shot in the hole from Jeff Stratman.

Redmond used a strong performance from their goalie in the shallow end and scored all three goals in the second quarter. The Huskies maintained the pace in the third quarter. Martin scored both goals, one from the hole on an assist from Stratman. Ahead 8-6 in the fourth quarter, Redmond went on a tear, scoring four goals in a minute as the Huskies began to wear down.

Redmond completed the job with a 13-6 final score.

“Conditioning was the biggest part and we were losing the ball,” said Kirkland. “We aren’t going to play with these guys if we aren’t in shape.”

Kirkland wasn’t particularly impressed with Redmond’s play, but they had more players and could get away from playing a sound mechanical game.

“If we could have made better passes, we could have won that game easily,” she said. They will have a chance to prove that point when they face Redmond next Saturday in Eugene.

Kirkland hopes to acquire more participants by that time to ease the load on the short-handed Huskies. Matt Maloney has just turned out and has shown improvement along with Andre Hoxfeldt, a Danish exchange student playing water polo as a shallow end goalie for the first time in his life. She thinks she has one more recruit about to turn out.

Until then, the Huskies will be forced to become better conditioned athletes to compete. They host North Eugene today before meeting up with Redmond on the weekend.