By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dexter Dreadnaught and Saline Hornet Water Polo teams both got their seasons underway last week, participating in the Early Bird Invitational Friday, Mar. 16 and Saturday, Mar. 17, before clashing on Tuesday, Mar. 20 to open the season at the Dexter Community Pool.
After a tough showing at the Invitational, second-year Dreadnaught head coach Kait McMurray knew the results weren’t the most important. It was a chance to see teams from the west side of the state that the Dreadnaughts typically wouldn’t see unless it made the postseason.
“Our district is very competitive so it’s not a given (to make the postseason),” said McMurray. “It’s anyone’s game to get beyond districts. For us to be able to see such high caliber games of water polo so early in the season was great. We went 0-4 but it paid off, doesn’t really matter what happened then, we started fresh today. Great game.”
The Dreadnaughts would emerge with a 5-2 victory, cruising to a 5-0 lead before the Hornets made a push late in the third and fourth period to get on the scoreboard.
McMurray told the team that after seeing their performance on Friday and Saturday, that they simply needed to shoot the ball more.
“I tell my girls, ‘You can’t score without shooting the ball’, we had a tournament over the weekend where they were a little hesitant to even shoot the ball, so we really emphasized actually putting shots on the goalie,” said McMurray. “Saline has a great goalie, I made sure they knew we weren’t gonna get those easy shots. We spent a lot of time shooting in practice and warm-ups, a lot has to do with confidence, like I said just keep shooting, can’t score the ball if you don’t shoot.”
Junior Allison Wyka got the Dreadnaughts on the board with 1:31 remaining in the first period right when the Dreadnaughts capitalized on a Hornet exclusion. Then, less than 30 seconds later, senior captain Heather Brouwer was able to poke the ball in after Hornet goalkeeper Katie Wagner made a save, but put the ball right in Brouwer’s path right in front of the goal. 2-0 Dexter.
In the second period sophomore Alyssa Frost struck at the 3:47 mark, as the Dreadnaughts moved the ball in the offensive third of the pool they got the Hornets out of position moving the ball quickly, Frost passed to the corner and received a pass back right in front of the goal, which she buried for the 3-0 lead.
Dreadnaught junior Cady Paquin scored on a breakaway attempt after a long outlet pass from Dreadnaught goalkeeper Grace Ward. Wyka added her second goal in the third period to make the score 5-0 before Hornet swimmer Emily Heutteman lofted a shot into the corner before the buzzer sounded.
Dreads get two more goals from junior Cady Paquin and Wyka. @SalineWaterPolo’s Emily Heutteman answers with this goal before the buzzer. 5-1 Dreads heading into the fourth period. @SunTimesSports pic.twitter.com/afHESxE1Og
— Seth Kinker (@SethKinker) March 20, 2018
Hornet swimmer Annika Olsen added one more goal in transition at the 5:17 mark but the Hornets would come no closer, making the final score 5-2 Dexter.
Ward finished with five saves and an assist and junior Rebecca Clark and sophomore Anna Lehr each added five steals. Clark and Brouwer had assists on Dreadnaught goals as well.
The Dreadnaught defense held the Hornets to many empty possessions and McMurray credited that to a good team defense as well as senior leadership.
“If there was someone driving through they would pick up their girl and communicate to their teammates to pick up the previous offender,” said McMurray. “Huge improvement in communication, and really, team cohesiveness on both offense and defensive ends of the pool, playing as a team helping each other out. We always talk X’s and O’s with these girls but really it’s about want to help your teammate so I think that’s what helped us a lot, helping each other out, wanting to help out, and not having that single-mindedness mindset.”
“Saline is a great team,” added McMurray. “We focused on not only shooting but defense. I am a firm believer in defense wins games. A lot of these girls have played together before but we have a new young team, we lost a huge leader in the water last year so I was really looking for someone to step up in this game. Our senior captains Heather Brouwer and Maeve Donevan really took control out there and I think our team fed off of their communication and direction.”