PCHS water polo teams defeat Kearns
Miners also celebrated their seniors on Wednesday night
Since Park City High School girls’ and boys’ water polo teams came into existence, they were always looking up at Kearns. Four years later, the Miners have a strong case to replace Kearns as top dog.
Hosting Senior Night at the Park City Aquatic Center on Wednesday evening, the Park City girls’ team kicked the night off with a thrilling 7-6 victory, the first the Miners have ever had over Kearns. While the boys’ team was able to best their counterparts earlier this season, a second consecutive win over Kearns, this time 13-8, added to the night’s excitement.
For the girls, Wednesday’s win was the biggest accomplishment of the season, and the Miners celebrated as such.
“I’ve never seen them as excited,” Park City assistant coach Jeff Whipple said. “They were more excited to beat Kearns than they were two years ago to win the state title.”
The girls’ team used a stout defense in the second half to really clamp down on the Kearns attack. In the final minutes of the game, the Miners found themselves trailing 6-1, but they wouldn’t give up, as they scored five of the game’s final six goals. And they needed every one of them to sneak by with a win by just a single goal.
“We just executed by moving the ball from the weak side to the strong side and got the shots and scored the goals that we were looking for,” Whipple said. “It was a great team effort from all the girls, both offensively and defensively.”
For the boys, the contest wasn’t as close. Again, this squad has topped Kearns before, which has given the Miners the confidence that they are the best team in the state. They certainly played like it on Wednesday evening.
“The guys know that they should win,” Whipple said. “They now believe they are the best team in the Mountain Zone area. Because they believe it, and they are executing to that level, I think that they took it like they were supposed to be there and they were supposed to do it.”
While it was a big night in the pool, it was also about celebrating the boys’ and girls’ teams’ seniors; Matt Whipple, Jack Loyens, Maclane Vipond, Alec Occon, Cannan Prior, Parker Russon, Blythe Petty and Kelly Wasser. This group of seniors, specifically Whipple, Loyens and Vipond, have helped catapult Park City Water Polo not only into existence, but as a top program, Whipple said.
When these seniors first helped start up the boys’ team, the end result was a seventh-place finish in the Junior Varsity state tournament. The next year, the team finished in second in the 3A division, with the following year ending in a state championship. This year, the goal was to top Kearns, which they’ve done, but none of that would’ve been possible without the seniors.
“We’re proud of how far that they’ve come,” Whipple said. “It’s a great group of kids.”
With the end of Wednesday’s games, the Park City teams now look forward to the state tournament, which will take place next weekend at Southern Utah University.
One team they won’t see in the state tournament is Kearns, who competes at the 4A level. But instead, Park City will have to go up against Southern Utah, a combination team of the five high schools down in St. George. The fact that Southern Utah will be competing right in its backyard is a strike against the Miners, but they still feel they’re the favorite.
“I think that both the girls’ and boys’ teams are going to go in as the No. 1 ranked team in 3A,” Whipple said. “I think we’re the odds-on favorite to win both the boys’ and girls’ 3A state championship.”
The Utah High School Water Polo Association State Water Polo Tournament will take place from May18-20 at Southern Utah University.
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.