The Pitman High varsity girls water polo team is hungry as they go into their second season in the Central California Athletic League and the second season in the return of head coach Michaela Richter, who managed to turn things around rather quickly in her first year back after a hiatus.
“My JV squad last year took the CCAL, it was a big deal, but they have not seen the top level of competition, so those few games will be an eye-opening experience for all of them,” said Richter. “But I have a lot of faith in the leadership of Joelle Lok and Maddy Ngo, to kind of bolster the team up.”
Lok and Ngo, along with senior Jennavieve Van Oostende, are returners from a squad that managed to make a postseason run and earn a winning record in their first year in the CCAL.
This was followed by a 5-5 league record, that earned them a tiebreaker play in the last game for the postseason, where they topped Modesto High, 6-5, to end the year with a league posting of 6-5.
“We took third overall, and realistically, I would like to see us fight Turlock for that spot. We are the only team that gave Turlock a run for their money,” said Richter. “I mean, hometown rivalry, how it always goes, but the girls have to bring their ‘A’ game and we have a few tricks up our sleeve when it comes down to taking care some of their bigger guns and I know we will be competitive if anything else.”
The win earned them a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs where they fell to top seeded St. Francis, 13-2, back on Oct. 31, 2018.
Pitman also won three of their last four CCAL contests to end the regular season on a high note heading into the playoffs.
The experience will be necessary, considering they lost six seniors from last year.
“That was definitely hard building a program around that one senior we have coming in this year,” said Richter. “We have a girl who transferred, so she will be here as well, two seniors, technically, but we have a young team. They all work hard and they will compete, but the experience is what we are lacking, they have not been in that intense game or that elite level.”
Another thing that Richter has noticed early on is the team effort and the camaraderie looks second to none.
“The team effort I have this year, compared to last year, is insane,” said Richter. “These girls are in it to win it, they want to work hard and they have their mindset set on what they want to do and nothing is going to stop them, but we do have a lot of work to do.”
Richter will also rely heavily on goalkeeper Rebeckah Day, someone who Richter is really excited about.
The first game of the year for Pitman will be a scrimmage from Merced College at a time yet to be determined on Aug. 24.