They may have lost some key players due to graduation, but the boys water polo team, steadily growing over the past few years, showed they are stronger than ever earlier this week during HRV’s debut against David Douglas, during which the Eagles outplayed the 6A team, cruising to an 18-7 victory on the road.
While other HRV teams are easing into competition with non-conference games, the boys water polo squad’s victory over David Douglas was “our first real test,” said Head Coach David Robinson, who fills the spot vacated by former Head Coach Dave Cameron, who started the high school program four years ago. HRV competes in the Metro 5A and Mt. Hood 6A conferences during the regular season, though the school belongs to the 5A classification.
It’s a younger group this season, with a stable of 16 freshman and the core of the team composed of sophomores and juniors — most of whom have swimming and/or water polo experience. There are only two senior starters: Bryce Donald in the field and Liam Longland in goal, who takes over for classmate Adam Cameron, who elected to not return to the team in order to focus more on baseball, Robinson said (Cameron, a catcher, was a member of last year’ runner-up team as well as a member of the 2015 team that won the 5A baseball state championship). Longland served as Cameron’s backup in the cage last season. Longland will also serve as captain this season, along with Cole Rothman (junior) and first-years Pen Paphanchith, Connor McElwee, and Corbett Blackman.
Because of those changes, Robinson said the team has a bit of a different focus this season.
“We are really changing the culture from the past few years on the boys teams, centered around two or three super-strong players and installing strong teamwork and interchangeable players,” he explained. “I can do frequent substitutions and keep all players relatively fresh while spreading the team knowledge on offense and defense.”
That teamwork was evidenced by the stat sheet from the team’s David Douglas debut Tuesday, which showed scoring by committee for HRV. Junior JJ Mears had five goals and two assists, sophomore Pelle Bergstrom had four goals and three assists, second-year Chad Klaas had two goals and six assists, Rothman had two goals and an assist, while Paphanchith had two scores. Robinson added that Longland looked “strong in goal with a number of steals, outlet assists, and saves in the 18-7 win.”
HRV doesn’t have another game until Sept. 8, where the team will face Sam Barlow on the road. The Eagles’ first home game will be a Sept. 17 contest against Reynolds at 5:30 p.m. at the Hood River Aquatic Center.