Communication the Key for Women’s Polo

SAN LUIS OBISPO (September 20, 2016)— Cuesta College is unique amongst California Community Colleges due its student demographic, with almost half of the students hailing from high schools outside of San Luis Obispo.  This diversity is often more pronounced on the Cougars’ athletic teams, including women’s water polo.  The challenge of having a team with sixteen players from eleven different high schools is communication between the players and the Cougars are working hard to get every player on the same page.  Cuesta returns two starters and four reserves from 2015’s 23-win team and have added eleven newcomers.  One of Cuesta College’s strengths is its diversity of talented students and student-athletes, but in the competitive arena it is all about communication. 

The Cuesta Women’s Water Polo team opened its 2016 season with a 5-3 record in its first two tournament.  The Cougars play in the Bockman Memorial this weekend and return home on September 30 for the 18th Rabobank Tournament.    

Overview

INSIDE

Cuesta’s interior game is expected to be a major strength this season.  The Cougars will once again count on their defense to feed their offense and that will start with 2015 All Western State Conference (WSC) Defender Daci Hughes (Bountiful, UT).  Hughes is back in the middle and building on her strong freshman year.  She will guard the Cougars opponents’ top player in front of the a talented and deep goaltending corps.  Hughes, at 6’2”, is one of the most physically dominant players in the state and has worked hard to improve her speed and skill set in the off-season.  She scored 40 goals for the Cougars last season and should see that number jump this season, because the Cougars are trying to develop her at both ends of the tank.  Coach Pete Schuler says, “A lot of our success will be due to Daci’s development on offense.”  Sophomore Katie Goldblatt (Chico HS) blossomed during her first season of varsity water polo and also enjoyed a strong swim season.  She is one of the strongest players on the team and is building on a solid freshman season, where she netted ten goals.  The Cougars are also redshirting Freshman Luna Bailey (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS), who should take over Hughes’ spot in 2017.  On the offensive end of the tank, All-Los Padres League choice Adelaide Foster (SLO HS) appears to be the Cougars’ top inside scoring threat.  Foster gets good position and can score or earn exclusions. Coach Schuler says, “Addie has good speed, a strong shot and, finds a way to make great things happen on offense.  She is our most complete offensive player and makes all her teammates better.”  Freshman Marissa Garzini (Geyserville) took last season off, but the All-Redwood League First Teamer is knocking off the rust and showing off her scoring ability.  Garzini led the Cougars with five goals on the opening weekend and Coach Schuler says, “She has the hardest shot on the team and we hope to use her as instant offense off the bench.”  Sophomore Abigail Van Kirk (Sonoma) is the Cougars’ only left-hander in the field.  She netted 11 goals as a freshman and gives the Cougars a different look on their power-play, as well as some versatility at the Center position.  Schuler says, “Abby has a difficult shot to block from the left side and is smooth at two-meters.    

OUTSIDE

2015 All-WSC Second Teamer Katie White (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS) is poised for a big sophomore campaign.  She is the Cougars’ top returning scorer, with 59 tallies as a freshman, and is a ballhawk on the perimeter, who led the Cougars with 74 steals in 2015.  Coach Schuler says, “Katie is always working to improve herself and brings a lot of intensity to every play.”  Freshman Victoria White (Los Osos: Morro Bay HS) joins her sister on the outside this year. The younger White earned all-Los Padres League honors all four years at Morro Bay High, including first team accolades her last three years.   Schuler says, “They are a fantastic duo to have on the team and give us a lot of options.  They both have a lot of tools, speed, strength, and determination.  They should blossom in our defense and lead the fast break and add a lot of steals and goals.” Sonoma State transfer Shaine Sorensen (Solana Beach) and Freshman Naomi Wilson (Morro Bay HS) will both start on the perimeter.  Sorensen did not play for the (SeaWolves (ne’ Cossacks) last Spring, but has made an immediate impact at Cuesta.  Schuler says, “She sees the game well and is great at communicating to her teammates in the water- plus she is and good passer and an accurate shooter from the outside.”   Wilson has been a pleasant surprise for the Cougars.  The former all-Los Padres League choice does everything well.  Schuler says, “Naomi has a real feel for the game, she is only going to get better.  And she is pretty good right now!”   2015 All-WSC Honorable Mention choice Jessica Reeves (Paso Robles HS) will revise her role as the Cougars’ “Super Sub”, but she will get some help from a familiar face.  Reeves scored 23 goals off the bench last season and will be joined by her twin sister Natalie Reeves (Paso Robles HS) this season.   Schuler says, “We have been blessed with two pairs of sisters on our roster this season, so the White and Reeves families should power this team.  Jessica and Natalie both give us a boost off the bench and should settle into complimentary roles this season.”    Sophomore Hannah Brumley (Springville) began last season as a voluntary goalie, but was sprung from the cage at mid-season and returned to the field.  Last season, the Cougars were undefeated at 5-0 with her in the goal and she posted 21 saves.  Brumley also added two goals on offense during her freshman campaign.   Schuler says, “Hannah is one of the team’s smartest players and she does everything right.  She sees the game well and communicates well.”  Freshman Jordan Bonner (Atascadero: Morro Bay HS) is still learning the game and should develop during her freshman season.  Schuler says, “She brings a great attitude and never gives up.  Jordan will be a big part of our team in and out of the water, whether it shows in the box score or not.” 

The Cougars are young in the goal, but have a trio of talented freshman netminders to keep the goal clean.  All-Los Padres League choice Kelsey Lewis (Paso Robles HS) and Sierra Pacific High’s Defensive MVP Maggie Lucio (Hanford) step into the season as proven, experienced goaltenders.  Schuler says, “They are both already solid collegiate goaltenders.” Lewis was a three-year varsity starter for Paso Robles High was named to the 2016 All-SLO County First Team.  Schuler says, “Kelsey has a presence in the goal.  When she is playing confident, nothing gets in the goal.”  Lucio collected 522 saves in her three seasons as Sierra Pacific High’s starting goalie.  She led the Golden Bears to the Valley title game as a senior.  Schuler says, “Maggie is a good communicator in the goal and really leads the team from the goal.”      Freshman Mia Viss (Modesto) earned all-League 1st team and has shown big time potential in the goal.  Schuler says, “Mia has all the tools, but only played in the goal her senior season.  If she continues her improvement, she can develop into a special player.”