Last spring, the Gig Harbor High School girls water polo team saw its streak of four consecutive state championship wins come to an end, losing to rival Curtis in the championship game, 8-5. That loss has provided plenty of motivation heading into this season.
“It devastated us but it kind of put a fire in us this year,” said junior goalie Katie Ward, who was named to last year’s all-state team. “No one on the team wants to lose it this year. It’s driven us harder in practice, too.”
The Tides had to deal with fielding a relatively young and inexperienced team in 2018 compared to years past. But if last year’s team was rebuilding, this year’s team expects to get back on top, returning all-state selections Tatum Benson, Jenna Anderson and Nina Neira, as well as junior transfer Teghan Miller, who recently moved to Gig Harbor from Santa Barbara, California.
“I think we learned a lot from last year’s season,” Anderson said. “This year, we’re more comfortable playing together. We’ve learned each others strengths and weaknesses.”
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Offensively, Gig Harbor wants to be more dangerous this season. That starts with putting the game in motion.
“I think our play is going to be faster,” Benson said. “I think we’re going to have a few tricks up our sleeve that we haven’t used before. More movement than you’ve ever seen before. I’m just proud of the players on the team. They’ve stepped up.”
Miller, who is new to the team, said she watched last year’s game film from the state championship loss to Curtis and said she’s noticed how motivated everyone is in the pool this spring.
“I think we’ve got really good chemistry,” Miller said. “They all really want it this year. I think we’ll have good movement, get the game moving and not just be sitting around. We’re going to be a quick team.”
Gig Harbor, which has been to 11 consecutive state championship games, has developed a rivalry with Curtis High over the years. If the Tides want to the win this year’s title, there’s a good chance they’ll have to go through the Vikings to take the trophy back.
“Every game is different,” Anderson said. “I think it just depends on who is focused the most in the particular game and who’s most determined. It’s always a big fight with Curtis, till to the very end. It’ll require a lot of focus and practice to get there.”
Gig Harbor opens its season with a rematch of last year’s title game against Curtis at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at the Curtis Aquatic Center in University Place.
“Our goal is to work as cohesively as we can, as together as we can,” Anderson said. “We want to look for the best opportunities. We want to work as much as a team as we can.”