By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Saline Hornet Water Polo team fell on Tuesday, Apr. 17 to the Ann Arbor Huron River Rats, 9-5, as a team filled with youth continues to see growth.
In the first quarter the Hornets started out with a lot of shot opportunities, some barely missed wide and high. At the 5:40 mark senior Emily Huetteman had a chance from close that hit the crossbar, on the ensuing possession on the other end of the pool junior goalkeeper Katie Wagner made a slave coming out of the net.
The River Rats used long outlet passes in transition and long passes in the offensive half of the pool to keep the Hornet defense moving.
With 4:40 the River Rats took a lead after a Saline penalty. The River Rats took a 2-1 lead into halftime after senior Cassie Anderson fired a rocket from in front of the net after being fouled. 19 seconds later a River Rat senior Elaina Baker was found in transition after a long outlet pass.
“I didn’t think we did that bad of a job in the first half at all,” said Hornet head coach Tom Magner. “The difference being when you ask younger players to step up and hit the net it will take a few games. That was our big thing, to build some confidence. I thought overall our whole game was alright, that penalty early was a good penalty to take. We didn’t do a bad job just not a whole lot to show for it.”
The Hornets are also battling some health issues, missing a few of the faster swimmers on the team. Magner recognized many of his younger players stepping up when needed.
“It’s not necessarily speed, it’s just learning the game,” said Magner when asked about the River Rats success with long passes throughout the game and how his young team adjusted. “It’s hard to recognize when you’re getting beat, when we’re asking them to shoot on offense. Then they start thinking offensively, you lose a little bit on the defensive end so that was expected today. I had a number of younger players really step up and figure it out, but it only takes one to have a counter attack go wrong, with a young team that’s bound to happen. We’re learning, I thought we did alright tonight.”
The River Rats rattled off four goals in a three and a half minute span halfway through the third quarter to take control. The River Rats would add one more and Hornet sophomore Annabelle Lovett and Anderson added goals in the third to make it 7-3 heading into the fourth quarter.
Hornet freshman Sydney Anderson and Huetteman added goals in the fourth as the River Rats added two more as well to make the final score 9-5.
Despite the loss, the team has shown continued growth in its still young season.
“We don’t have a lot of subs and because of that our players have some of the best opportunities in the state in terms of playing time,” said Magner. “I’ve seen a few of our younger players go from ‘I’m gonna pass the ball to our best player’ to ‘I’m gonna shoot.’ Offense is the hardest part of water polo to understand, you have to think what’s gonna happen next. For a new player still reading the play you tend to react rather than play and you need to play. I think I saw that from some of my younger players today. Your first thought as a young player is ‘I need to swim as fast as I can’ but that’s not the case. Sometimes you just need to look I saw a lot of players looking more and we had a lot of passes and shots on net. A couple of those start falling and we have a whole different game.”