Water polo teams golden at Championships
Park City comes together as a team to win titles
At the beginning of the season, the Park City High School water polo teams knew they had good enough players to secure a state title. But head coach Josh Loyens and assistant coach Jeff Whipple faced the challenge of turning the talented kids and into one unit.
Park City played as one unit last Saturday when it secured Utah High School Water Polo 3A state titles for both the Park City boys’ and girls’ teams at Southern Utah University. The boys’ team defeated Tooele 25-4 in its championship game, while girls’ team followed suit with a 16-3 victory over Southern Utah.
“We’ve come a long way,” Whipple said of winning the championships.
After all, playing as a team wasn’t always so easy for the Miners this year. Whipple specifically preached about playing together after bouts with Olympus in mid-April. Even though the Miners walked away with 17-4 (boys) and 12-8 (girls) victories that night, it wasn’t the style of play the coaching staff wanted.
“What I was really not happy with when we played Olympus is that we were a bunch of individuals,” Whipple said. “We beat them because we were better athletes.”
But something clicked in the squads that night they played Olympus, as they’ve have been well-oiled machines since, culminating with the state titles.
As if the final scores weren’t any indication, the Miners romped through the state tournament at Southern Utah University, with the boys outscoring their opponents 94-15, while the girls outscored opposing teams 88-14. Additionally, Park City defeated both the 4A and 5A champions crowned at SUU last weekend at some point this season in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions.
“We dominated because we played as a team,” Whipple said. “It’s about as dominant a performance I think you can get.”
The chemistry the teams developed on both sides has been clear to those who have watched them this season. Instead of bringing personal agendas into the equation, some of the roster’s most talented players bought into the team culture Whipple and Loyens were aiming to create.
“It’s the camaraderie between the players that’s really where the team has grown,” Whipple said. “I think that we won each game as a team. If you look at the stars of the team, they’re down from last year in goals scored. Their individual stats might not be as good, but the team is much, much better. Everybody accepted their roles and executed.”
While the players have improved throughout the season, the coaching staff is learning, too. Loyens is a young coach at just 22. Throw in the fact that his younger brother, Jack, and Whipple’s son, Matt, are on the team, and Loyens’ job can be difficult.
However, Whipple said that Loyens has grown with the players during his tenure.
“He is becoming one of the elite coaches in Utah,” Whipple said. “If you look at it, Josh got everybody to play as a team, play together and let that transition from being a bunch of individuals to becoming a really good team.”
Like any other high school sport, the Miners will have to deal with a turnover of players after graduation. Whipple hopes the team, which contains a handful of promising underclassmen, will return as one of the favorites to win 3A next year.
“We’ve got big shoes to fill, but a lot of the guys that were first or second off the bench got great experience this year,” Whipple said. “So I foresee that we’ll be able to fill their roles. The team should be as good, or better, next year, as we were this year.”
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The Youth Sport Alliance is planning on expanding its program through the rest of the county, and, depending on a grant from the Women’s Giving Fund, adding two part-time positions.