Hood River Valley girls water polo looks to a three-peat as State Champions after winning the state title the past two years. The girls return the past two state MVPs to this year’s roster: Jamie Robinson in 2017 and Faith Ocheskey (pictured) in 2016.
If Hood River was a small town hidden on the state map before, there’s no chance it is anymore, especially if we are talking about high school girls water polo.
The Hood River Valley High School girls water polo team heads into the 2018 season coming off back-to-back State Championships, “putting a state-wide target on our back,” said HRV girls water polo head coach Kellie Dunn.
“Gone are the days when we flew under the radar as the new team and underdogs,” said Dunn. “This year, teams are gunning for us.”
HRV lost six seniors to graduation, each of whom were instrumental in winning both state titles and setting a winning culture within the program.
Despite the loss of “several incredibly strong and talented players from last year, I feel confident that our younger players are ready to take over that legacy that those before them set,” said Dunn.
This season, HRV shrinks from 17 players in 2017 to 11 current players on the team roster.
“However, the players we have this year are all incredibly passionate about water polo, gifted athletes, and play with a lot of heart,” said Dunn.
Players to watch this year, who return from last year’s title team, include Jamie Robinson (senior), Faith Ocheskey (junior) and Alea McCarty (senior).
Robinson, a returning captain and the 2017 state MVP, “brings a certain level of physicality that elevates the rest of the team by playing with an intensity and grit that is unrivaled around the state,” said Dunn.
Ocheskey, also a returning captain and the 2016 state MVP, “has a killer shot and a serious competitive edge with great versatility that allows her to excel wherever we stick her in the game,” said Dunn.
The third and final captain on this year’s roster is senior McCarty. McCarty is a left-handed player who adds a different aspect to HRV’s attack. “She’s a player on the rise this year and one to watch as she’s developing a new level of play that will be an asset to the team,” said Dunn.
Other returners to this year’s roster that Dunn believes are “really ready,” to step up and fill roles vacated by last year’s seniors are Madaket Greenleaf, Olivia Sumerfield, Grace Reagan and Neilly Kendall.
As far as freshmen go, the Eagles have two strong prospects in Sarah Arpag and Jessica Galvez.
“Both have joined the team fairly green to the sport,” said Dunn. “But with a highly decorated swimming background, they will lend to our overall quickness and driving offense this year.”
Over the past two years, the team has relied heavily on a strong defense that forced turnovers, which allowed for easy opportunities at goal on the offensive end. This had been the foundation of back-to-back titles, but over time, personnel changes, as well as teams from around the league starting to build around the strengths of the state champions, has led Dunn to come to the fact that this is a new year with new strengths to highlight.
“We are still trying to figure a few things out and are moving pieces of our team around to see what works best, but we are going to be a much quicker, more agile team than years past,” said Dunn. “Where we had more strength and size before, we are now shifting to more of a driving offense utilizing technical skills and finesse over the power we’ve relied on in the past. It’s definitely a bit of a shift in thinking to change our style of play, but it’s important to put our strengths to work for us and base what we do around.”
If it isn’t self-explanatory, the goal this year for HRV girls water polo is another state title, but the road there isn’t going to be an easy one.
“I think we are going to see some really competitive league games with 6A teams Rey-nolds and Barlow — both are coming in stronger this year and should give us some challenges this season in the Mt. Hood Conference,” said Dunn. “In 5A, West Albany is coming back from several years as a powerhouse in 6A, so we have our sights set on them as well as we go for the three-peat this season.”