For Peninsula High School sophomore Shayla Zartman, leading a young, inexperienced Seahawks water polo team has had its fair share of growing pains.
And for Zartman, the team’s growing pains have been accompanied by physical pains of her own — mainly a shoulder injury that has kept the sophomore from competing at her usual 100-percent effectiveness.
“I’ve just got to rest it,” Zartman said.
Zartman, who also plays for the Narrows club team, coached by Gig Harbor High coach Mike Kelly, will now have a few weeks to rest her shoulder before the next phase of club water polo begins.
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While Peninsula had to forfeit to Gig Harbor on Friday afternoon due to lack of players, the Seahawks boast some good wins in a rebuilding year. Peninsula beat Lincoln, South Kitsap and Foss during the season.
“We’ve definitely grown as a team,” Zartman said. “They’re learning how to play water polo. That’s a real improvement.”
On Friday, some of Gig Harbor’s best players suited up for Peninsula, making the game a fun scrimmage for everyone.
“I’ve made some of my best friends on the Gig Harbor team,” Zartman said. “They’re all such amazing athletes. It’s fun playing with them and learning from them and getting better with them.”
Peninsula (5-6 overall) have progressed throughout the season, according to Zartman.
“Water polo is one of those games where you have to understand it to be able to play,” she said. “Getting that understanding is the hardest part. When we play these teams like Stadium, and we’re going for 50/50 balls, playing defense and getting a hand up, those are the things where I’ve seen the most improvement, which is really awesome. I’m really happy.”
It’s also the first year for coach Milissa Burkey, a Peninsula graduate who wants to see the program returned to its former success.
“She has a lot to offer this program as a whole,” Zartman said. “She really loves the Peninsula water polo program and wants to get it back to where it used to be. Where did it go? Why do we only have 11 people showing up for the team? I think we’re headed in the right direction. I think next year and the year after it’ll definitely pay off.”