Second year varsity head coach Colin Wenstrand of Pitman boys water polo knows that it will be a process to get the program running the way he would like, but the team took strides just a year ago.
Despite a last place finish in league, the Pride saw sparks and potential for what could be a positive 2017 season. The newcomers and returners have one goal in mind, to build the foundation and keep it going and it seems like this year will be a glimpse of that.
The Pride will benefit from players coming from the JV team from a season ago, which finished with a 7-5 CCC posting.
Many of those swimmers are now moving on to varsity as juniors and are hoping to best their previous performances.
“Our JV team in particular, with some incoming juniors, did a great job developing. That JV team was pretty good and they had some real close games, so the future is really bright,” said Wenstrand.
The Pride ended the 2016 season with a 0-12 CCC record, but they didn't start that way.
In fact, Pitman lost by three goals or less in five of their 12 CCC contests.
They defeated CCC foe Golden Valley in a 14-6 victory on Sept. 17, 2016, in the Roddy Svendsen Shootout, but fell twice in league games against the Cougars.
At one point during the preseason, Pitman held a record of 5-2.
From there on, it snowballed into losses.
“I think any time you start a new season, you want to play your best polo at the end of the season. Last year we played strong polo at the beginning of the season,” said Wenstrand. “And so, we had that sort of reverse outcome of what we want and we thought we would be able to carry that momentum into league play but it just didn't turn out in our favor.”
With the new year just weeks ahead, the Pride are looking to rely on Brayden Gutierrez, Frank Alaiaga, and Robert Boster to take the torch as leaders for the group.
“Robert (Boster), I am looking for him to be my senior leader; he has awareness and the kids look up to him. [He’s a] great role model, has character of what this program is about,” said Wenstrand. “I expect a lot from Frank and Brayden, who spent the summer playing club polo and went to Junior Olympics and went to the Hawaiian Invitational tournament, so I am expecting a lot of leadership from him.”
The loss of six seniors from last year’s team might hurt, but 11 incoming freshmen seem to make things better in the long run for Wenstrand and the program.
“This year we have a huge turnout,” Wenstrand said about the freshmen. “A few have played before so I am super excited about that, for me as a coach and as a teacher, I feel professional development is a key to constant growth and a growth mindset.”
“This year I hope to have that early season success but it is not as important as the later season success,” Wenstrand added. “It's the conference games that matter the most. Always fun to win games, but more than winning I am looking for that growth mindset coming from the team as a whole.”
Pitman's first game is the CCC Jamboree at Buhach Colony at a time yet to be determined on Aug. 19.