Puyallup, Rogers and Emerald Ridge all have aspirations of advancing to the South Sound girls water polo state tournament this May at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center.
Puyallup placed eighth last year, while Rogers and Emerald Ridge both were one game shy of reaching their goal.
The following is a capsule look at how the east Pierce County programs may fare this season:
Head coach: Todd Fletcher, 13th year
Last year: 14-7, placed eighth at state tourney
Key players: Natalie Beck, so.; Abby Tkatch, sr.; Maddie Joy, so.; Hailey Allen, jr.; Mariah Clark, jr; Serena Fink, sr.
Puyallup head coach Todd Fletcher said he has depth across the board, and that’s what will make the Vikings dangerous this spring.
“We are just a very fast team,” Fletcher said. “We have the speed that will allow us to play great defense and also allow us to counter-attack, which is always huge. We have some really gutty players who play solid defense. It’s nice to have that blend. We’re looking forward to an awesome year.”
Natalie Beck is one of the best players in the league, and Maddie Joy is one of the fastest, Fletcher said.
“Our whole team is playing club water polo outside of the high school season,” Fletcher said. “They’ve worked so hard. We’re going to get better as the season goes on.”
EMERALD RIDGE JAGUARS
Head coach: James McMullan, first year
Last year: 12-10, lost in wild card round
Key players: Elizabeth Schuster, sr.; Lucy Pruitt, jr.; Aspen Sellers, jr.
The Jaguars will look very different from last season.
Emerald Ridge lost 13 players to graduation, but first-year head coach James McMullan expects his team to be competitive.
McMullan was an assistant for the past three years under his father, Dave.
“Every season, the goal is to make the state tournament and be competitive,” James McMullan said. “Consistent improvement is what we are striving for. Every girl has a goal they set and that the coaching staff has set. Once that goal is reached, a new goal is given. We expect to be better every game.”
McMullan has just 11 players on the varsity roster.
“With a small roster size, the girls will be able to get a lot of experience and playing time,” McMullan said.
One strength will be their ability to swim.
“Swimming is one of the most essential pieces to the game of water polo,” McMullan said. “All of these girls are fairly strong swimmers.”
Senior team captain Elizabeth Schuster is a fourth-year player and is the only one who has state-tournament experience, McMullan said.
“She knows what it takes, and she’s hungry to go back there again,” he said.
Head coach: Rachael Pogue-Rideout, first year
Last year: Advanced to wild card round
Key players: Sarah Gavre, so.; Rachel Crossen, sr.; Alelana Ruminskie, jr.;
Rachael Pogue-Rideout, an assistant coach for the past three seasons, has taken over the Rams’ program after former coach Deb Turver left to pursue an administrative degree.
Pogue-Rideout said she’s excited about the challenge.
“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “I have always loved water polo and hope to help get this team to state.
“I have a lot of big plans for this team,” she added. “They are pushing themselves harder than I have ever seen them right now and are ready to take it to the next level.”
The majority of the varsity players were novices last year, but Pogue-Rideout said that’s changed dramatically.
“Last year, 90 percent of the team never played water polo before,” she said. “Now we have that foundation and are ready to build on that.”