Olivia Lott was a little intimidated after winning the starting goalie job for the Gig Harbor water polo team last season as only a sophomore.
But Lott, who also split time with then-senior Laura Soares in goal, boasted obvious talent.
Now, she’s starting to put that talent together, which is a scary thought for the rest of the state’s water polo teams.
“I feel like she’s probably the top goalie for water polo in the state of Washington right now,” coach Mike Kelly said.
High praise indeed for the junior goalie. Lott, who recently returned from competition with the Olympic Development Program with teammate Alana Ponce, is a key returner for a Tides team in search of its sixth state title in the past seven seasons.
“Olivia is intelligent, she’s got great athleticism plus that intelligence pays off in anticipating where shots are going to be coming from,” Kelly said. “She defends the goal really well and has a pretty good defense in front of her. Olivia has great blocking ability, a super strong arm, (and) she can deliver that ball from one end of the court down to the other in just a split second. She really ignites the offense after a great defensive play, and then in a handful of seconds, that ball is in the scoring end of the pool.”
Lott was solid in goal in Gig Harbor’s state championship game against Newport, helping guide the Tides to a 10-3 win and perfect 25-0 record. But she was quick to deflect the credit to her teammates.
“I had a good team in front of me so it was easy to do my job,” Lott said.
This year, the team lost several key contributors from a season ago, putting the onus on other players to step up and fill those roles.
“I’m excited to just see how the team does,” Lott said. “We lost a lot of starters, so it’s just going to be a different team, a different way of playing.”
There’s pressure for players in the Gig Harbor program to now win a state title every season, seemingly.
“Yeah, there’s definitely pressure there,” Lott said. “We don’t want to let the community down. It’s just working hard in and out of the pool, that’s what’s going to get us there.”
Ponce has been a star since she arrived on campus at Gig Harbor High. The junior, who has been playing water polo since she was 8 years old, is poised for a monster year.
“One of the facets of her game that she had to work on is her offensive contributions, in terms of, if she has the shot, she needs to take the shot,” Kelly said. “I expect her goal scoring stats to go up by quite a bit. She makes all the players around her better players.”
Ponce is drawing interest from schools such as UCLA, Harvard and George Washington University, according to Kelly.
The longtime coach said he expects to see his team in the state title game — again.
“Our goal is always to reload, not rebuild.”