Park City water polo team shines at state championships |

Park City water polo team shines at state championships

Submitted by Randy Jones, Park City water polo coach

May 15 and 16 was a bittersweet weekend for the boys’ and girls’ water polo teams from Park City, especially for the seniors who will graduate next month.

The girls’ team finished third in the state, after blasting the amalgamated team from Cache Valley for the third time this season. The Park City boys’ team won its second state championship in three years, outlasting Bear River in the tournament final.

For senior girls Ashley Loyens, Hannah Kinnebrew, Jackie Sitko, Cheyenne Zambrano and Hannah Skarsten, this past weekend’s 3A state tournament capped four very successful seasons leading the Lady Miners. The Park City girls’ team has finished either second or third every season since these girls were in the ninth grade.

Seniors boys Shaun Livingston, Briggs Lyman, and Westen Archibald collected their second 3A title, while goalie Ryan Leigh was named to First Team All-State in his first season as a starter on the Park City varsity team.

The boys’ and girls’ teams each opened tournament play on Friday morning with wins over Cache Valley, a team comprised of students from the 4A high schools in the Logan area. In the boys’ opener, Lyman and junior Matt Jones each scored six goals in a 17-10 win over the Panthers. Livingston, Griffin Pool and Wesley Smith combined for five more points.

Skarsten scored six goals in the girls’ first game, a 14-6 win over the Lady Panthers. Kinnebrew (3), Loyens (2), Sitko (2) and Ali Murphy combined for the other eight points.

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On Friday afternoon, the Miner boys quieted No. 1 seed Cedar City 14 6 to win their pool and advance to the semifinals. In that game, Lyman scored 3, Jones had 2, while Ben Haynes and Archibald each had a goal.

As the sun was setting Friday evening, the Lady Miners steamrolled over Cedar City 18-6, in Zambrano’s best game of the tournament, to also win their pool and move into the Semifinals.

At 7 a.m. Saturday morning, the Lady Bears from Tremonton’s Bear River were waiting to ambush the Park City girls. Bear River took a three-goal lead in the first period and, despite a valiant comeback effort in the final quarter, the Lady Miners lost their semifinal 13-11, sending Bear River to the finals and forcing the PC girls to aim for third place. Loyens, Murphy and Sitko each scored three in the loss, with goals also scored by Skarsten and Kinnebrew.

Bear River’s Kelsey Ballard, who scored five goals against Park City en route to being named tournament MVP, led the Lady Bears to the 2009 3A championship. Bear River eventually won the 2009 title in overtime, outlasting Canyon View 7-6. Overall, the difference between Park City (third place), Canyon View (second place) and Bear River (first place) came down to about three goals out of nearly 500 scored during the two-day event.

The Park City boys’ semifinal match turned out to be their biggest scare of the 2009 tournament. The Falcons from Canyon View, who knocked out Park City in last year’s semifinals, scored early and led for most of the game. Haynes and Pool each scored in the second period to pull the Miners within one at the half. Lyman scored in the third to tie it up before Haynes shot in the winning score with 23 seconds left in the third period. Park City goalie Leigh made some awesome saves in the game, shutting out the Falcons for the entire second half. The Miners hung on to win 4-3 and advance to the final game.

On Saturday afternoon, the Lady Miners cruised to a 16-9 victory over Cache Valley to take third place in the 2009 tournament. Sitko led all scoring with six goals. Murphy contributed four, with Skarsten and Kinnebrew adding one each. Loyens scored three times in the fourth quarter to end with four points.

The boys’ championship match against perennial powerhouse Bear River started off badly for Park City. The Bears scored twice in the opening quarter, completely shutting down the Miners’ potent offense. Bear River led 3-1 at the half, with Lyman notching Park City’s only score, in the second period. The Miners fought back in the third, with Lyman and Jones each scoring again to match the Bears’ two additional points. Jones also recorded a pair of blocked shots from the field, and the entire squad dug deep to pick up the tempo on both offense and defense. Even so, Park City was looking at the wrong end of a 5-3 score when the fourth period (and the fireworks) began.

Smith started the final period with a score, then Livingston tied the game at 5-5 with a powerful shot from the right wing. Jones broke the tie with just under five minutes to play, but Bear River tied it again thirty seconds later. Livingston added another to re-take the lead, before the Bears tied the game again at 7-7 with just 2:22 remaining. With a minute and a half to play, Jones scored again to put the Miners up for good. Haynes found the goal again, then Pool added the icing on the cake, to win the state 3A final 10-7 over Bear River. The Miners had rallied to score seven goals in the final period to win their second 3A state championship in three years.

Lady Miners named to 2009’s All-State (second and third) teams include Kinnebrew, Loyens, Skarsten, Zambrano and sophomore Ali Murphy. Kinnebrew will attend and play polo next year at the University of Puget Sound, while Loyens has been offered a similar slot at Siena University in Albany, N.Y. Skarsten plans to attend the University of Utah, where she will have the opportunity to keep playing for Park City head coach Larry Jackson, who also coaches the Lady Utes. Sitko, who intends to play polo next year at Colorado State, was named to Second Team All-State for the second year in a row.

Among the boys, Pool and Livingston were named to the 2009 3A All-State Second and Third Teams, respectively, while Lyman, Jones and Leigh were named to the First Team. The 2009 3A State Tournament Most Valuable Player was Matt Jones, who will return (along with Pool, Haynes and Smith) as a senior next year.

Seniors Archibald and Livingston will attend BYU next fall. Lyman’s post-graduation plans are uncertain at this time. Leigh has accepted an appointment to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, N.Y. The USMMA does not presently have a water polo team, although Cadet Leigh is evidently looking to correct that malfunction. Several of the other service academies have active, competitive polo teams, and have recruited in Park City in the past.