HRV water polo continues to roll past competition

Connor McElwee is a key player for the boys polo pressure scheme.

File photo by Ben Mitchell
Connor McElwee is a key player for the boys polo pressure scheme.

The Hood River Valley girls water polo team took on Grant High School on Tuesday in a Mt. Hood Conference league game. The game was played at the Sandy Aquatic Center since Grant does not have a pool of its own.

The Eagles came into the game strong, carrying the momentum of the weekend tournament with them.

“Defense was incredible tonight, with the girls pressing so hard that Grant struggled to get the ball down the pool safely with enough time left on the shot clock to get the ball on goal,” Coach Kellie Dunn said. “It made for a pretty slow night in cage for our starting senior goalie, Kat McElderry.”

The girls from Grant were unable to match the speed of Hood River’s counterattacks and they couldn’t get their offense going against Hood River’s stifling and overwhelming pressure defense.

“The Grant game was a little easier, but it allowed us to practice drives and counter attack passing,” said junior captain Jamie Robinson. “Also, our entire team got to experience the varsity game, which is pretty rad.”

The final score was Hood River Valley 18 and Grant 3. Dunn said, “It felt really good to get back to league play tonight. Luckily, we had some energy carrying over from our third-place finish in Newberg this weekend, since we really haven’t been able to practice with everything that’s been going on with the Eagle Creek fire. We found our rhythm fairly quickly in the first quarter and really took over the game. It was a great chance to get deep on our bench and allow some of our less experienced players to test themselves in a varsity game as well.”

The varsity girls have a long break ahead of them as the next two games have been cancelled because the Gresham and Parkrose teams don’t have enough female players to fill their varsity roster this year. The varsity girls will be back in action Thursday, Sept. 28 at home against Barlow at 6 p.m.

On Thursday, the HRV boys’ water polo team continued their dominanting year, notching another win for the season, beating the Gresham Gophers by a score of 22-8.

Fast and furious is the developing theme with this year’s varsity team as sheer speed put the game out of reach after a rough start with the score at 4-2 in the first quarter.

"I wasn't happy with the loose play at the beginning of the game, ranging from turnovers to low-percentage shots, but we settled down and got back to tough team defense and better shot selection," said Head Coach David Robinson.

Javi Pico led all scoring with seven goals, but with burners Pico, Chad Klaas, Connor McElwee and Pelle Bergstrom putting continuous pressure on the fast break, those swimming up the pool for counter attacks were usually who caught the last pass before a score.

Pico is becoming known for some impressive skip shots, where the ball is thrown at the water and can skip low, medium or high depending on the spin and angle. Done correctly, it's similar to trying to hit a good knuckleball in baseball; needless to say, it can give the opposing goalie fits.

JJ Mears has taken on a new role, one of the most challenging in the game. Moving from attack, Mears now will be playing center defender, which usually means he’s matched up against the biggest and often times most-talented attacker on the opposing team. It can be brutal, but Mears has been up to the task, allowing Cole Rothman the ability to get up the pool faster in transition.

"It's an experiment to turn Rothman into a bigger weapon on the offensive end. Pico and Klass are always ready for quick help if needed by Mears, allowing better center defense and faster transitions," said Robinson. So far, the experiment is paying off as the boys extended their record to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in 5A.

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