PREP WATER POLO: Nevada Union boys blend competiveness with fun to achieve success
When it comes to high school water polo, Nevada Union boys head coach Lotty Hellested wants her team to strike a balance between being competitive and having fun.
“We like to compete, but it’s also high school and it’s about building a place where you belong and a peer group that you can have fun with through high school,” Hellested said.
She’s built just that.
The Miners have found a measure of success at tournaments this season and are currently battling through their difficult Sierra Foothill League schedule. The one constant through it all — the team is having a lot of fun.
“A lot of the teams in our league take it really serious, they play year round,” said NU senior Andrew Pardini. “We’re out here competing with them, but still having fun. We’re a group of friends that also like playing water polo.”
Pardini is one of several seniors this season that have helped the fun-loving Miners also be a force in the pool.
After a sixth place finish at the Sierra Shootout and a 10th place finish at a tourney in Merced, Nevada Union earned first place at Brandon Bridges Memorial Tournament in Roseville last weekend.
“Our strength is definitely playing as a team. We’re definitely more cohesive,” said NU’s senior goalie Kian Berreman. “We’re a great bunch of friends and we get along really well.”
The cohesive Miners beat Mira Loma, Roseville and Oakmont twice to earn the tourney title.
“We’ve improved a lot from last season, and that’s awesome,” said Pardini. “The progression of our chemistry as a team and our overall play has gotten so much better than last year, and now were competing against teams that blew us out of the water last season.”
In addition to Pardini and Berreman, standout players for NU have included Miles Yamauchi, Benny Gemetti, Elias Weiss-Preszler and Bowen Kyle.
In league play, the Miners have yet to earn a win this season, but have played their SFL opponents closely.
Nevada Union has just one game left this season, a road match at Oak Ridge on Wednesday. Win or lose, the Miners will play the game with the same objective.
“I just hope I have a great time and finish the season strong,” Berreman said. “Have fun and make some memories.”
No matter how the season ends, Hellested said she has accomplished her goal as a coach.
“These guys are just fun,” she said. “They come out and the first 5 minutes they just play and I allow them to. They are a tight bonded group. My goal of having high school sports be apart of the high school experience and be a place to belong, and that is fun for you — I think I’ve achieved that.”
LADY MINERS WATER POLO
The girls water polo team has struggled this season, but first-year head coach Laura Sloan said the future is bright for the program.
“Varsity has struggled a lot,” she said. “But, we’re improving every game.”
As the varsity team continues to improve, Sloan added the JV squad is an exciting group with lots of potential.
“JV is strong,” she said. “I have a strong JV squad with a lot of excitement and athletic ability. I think this is kind of a building year and we have lots of hope for the future for sure.”
Despite the varsity team’s struggles, a couple players have stood out for NU in seniors Kei Castleberry and Shawna Latter.
“(Castleberry) is just a force for the team and a leader,” Sloan said. “She plays hard, swims hard and is definitely one who stands out.”
Sloan said NU is at their best when the ball is in Castleberry or Latter’s hands.
“(Latter) and (Castleberry) seem to have good communication, so if we can get the ball to one of them, good things usually happen,” she said.
It is Sloan’s first year as head coach of the girls team, but she has been helping out with the water polo program for 6 years and also co-coaches the swim team.
“I really do encourage fun,” she said of her coaching style. “If it’s not fun, why are you doing it? But I do appreciate hard work. So, it’s about finding a balance.”
The Lady Miners also close the league season Wednesday at Oak Ridge.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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