Team Mentality: La Jolla High School girls water polo ready for CIF

Heading into CIF championships this month, La Jolla High School’s Lady Vikings water polo team is ready to use the strengths they have built this year to take them to victory. Closing the regular season 23-4, the team came out of the gate strong, but gave themselves room to improve.

“We started off the season with two out-of-town tournaments, and won both. We continued to play strong through the beginning of season and won our first 12 games, the longest winning streak in La Jolla High School water polo history,” said coach Keller Felt, a La Jolla High School graduate (Class of 2007). “More recently, we had great wins over Bishop’s and Carlsbad, both teams we lost to earlier in the season. These two wins were huge because the girls were able to see how much they’ve grown, we made the appropriate adjustments in our game and it paid off.”

Felt added, “What is so amazing about this team is its ability to maintain a competitive edge while constantly supporting each other through all the ups and downs a season can have. I have been so impressed by these girls because they always work as a team. No one player is more important than the next. While there are only seven girls in the water during the game, every player has a role on our team.”

Contributing to that supportive team mentality were six seniors who’ve played together since they were 10 years old: Janet Shackleton, Kira Bruno, Claire Andrews, Lexi Atwell, Nicole Bertrand and Summer Broekema. “They have all been amazing leaders and role models for their teammates,” Felt said.

Agreeing, junior Sydney Boland said, “We’re all really close this year, which helps us when we’re running plays in the pool because we all know how we like to catch and throw the ball and where we want the ball to go.”

Added senior Bruno, who has been on the varsity team for all four high school years, said, “We’re one big family this year and all on the same page during every game. Since we all have the same goal in mind, we all look out for each other to reach that goal. There is no selfishness on the team.”

Citing her experience over the last few years, she said a season highlight was beating The Bishop’s School. “The last time we beat Bishop’s was my freshmen year, so it’s been a while,” she joked.

But the victories along the way have not clouded their minds for the series of tournaments ahead of them at CIF.

Junior Ciara Franke said going into the upcoming games, “Our dedication to the sport and trying our hardest gives us strength. We’ve worked on our defense this season and we’re going to maintain that to stop the other teams. That approach has worked well for us in the past, so we are going to continue that in the future.”

Bruno added, “We all work hard and don’t give up easy; we’re taking that to CIF. We’re going to work hard, play hard and win.”