There is a lot of symmetry going on between the two Summit High water polo programs.
For starters, both eclipsed 16 wins this fall — girls with 18, boys with 16. Both went a perfect 7-0 in the Southern Conference to capture league titles. Both have overcome slow starts to the regular season, neither losing a game since early October. The Storm boys are riding a 10-game winning streak, while the girls have won their last nine.
And on Friday this week at the Chehalem Aquatic Center in Newberg, both streaks will be put to the test in the first round of the Oregon High School Water Polo state playoffs.
The striking similarities extend beyond the green and white caps they wear, and their ability to keep their eyes open in a chlorinated pool without goggles: They are both four wins away from glory and favored to make deep runs as No. 4 seeds in their respective 16-team tournaments.
“There is always a lot of trepidation where you are going to be seeded,” said Summit boys coach Chris Smelser. “Then you start getting excited that if you handle business those first two rounds, then you go to next weekend. As long as we play our game and help each other out, then we have more than an outside chance at winning state.”
The Summit girls will open playoff play at 9:10 a.m. Friday against No. 13 Tualatin. The winner of that match will face the winner between No. 5 Lakeridge and No. 12 Sheldon at 5:20 p.m. for a chance to play in the state championships in Corvallis the following weekend. The Storm boys open at 9:10 a.m. Saturday against No. 13 Sunset, and the winner of that match faces the winner between No. 5 Grant and No. 12 Southridge at 5:20 p.m., also looking to advance to Corvallis.
Another thing that the two Summit programs share is perhaps what separates them from other programs around the state — depth.
“It’s a team. The whole team helps, it’s not one player — which sets us apart,” said Summit girls coach Alex Pitcher. “We have a lot of help off the bench, it’s not just a one-man shows compared to some of these schools.”
Carried by Wyatt Eckholt, whom Smelser considers one of the state’s top players, the Summit boys round into shape with a defensive stopper in Chance Caruso, a senior who is eager to defend the opponent’s top player. Ryder Cook, hailing from California — or the mecca of water polo, as Smelser calls it — brings nuance and understanding from years of playing the game. And savvy seniors Nate Peterson, Evan Daly and Alex Norby give Summit a balanced attack.
“It’s such a team. Wyatt is a great player, but he needs help on defense and these guys help him on defense,” Smelser said. “Just like any other team game, you can’t win by yourself.”
The girls team has a similar makeup. It boasts an impact player in senior Anna Carrillo, who is in the Olympic Development Program made up of a dozen of the state’s top players. Senior captains Lily Carson and Emma Gilmore keep the team in check throughout practice, and Connor Hamlin has been a consistent scorer throughout her junior season.
Entering the playoffs, both Summit coaches believe that their teams should have been ranked higher than their fourth-place seeding.
“We were seeded fourth, which I think we should have been third,” said Smelser, the boys coach. “But that’s OK.”
“Personally, I think we should have been seeded No. 3,” said Pitcher, the girls coach. “Just because we beat the No. 3 team (South Eugene) and finished ahead of them in league, but it is what it is. At the end of the day, you still have to beat everyone to win state.”
The quest to beat everyone starts Friday.
Also competing in the state playoffs, the No. 6 Bend girls face No. 11 Mountainside at 4:10 p.m. Friday for a shot to play the winner between No. 3 South Eugene and No. 14 Westview at 8:50 p.m.
Then on Saturday, the No. 11 Mountain View boys face No. 6 David Douglas in a first-round matchup at 4:10 p.m., with the victor facing the winner between No. 3 Beaverton and No. 14 Tualatin at 8:50 p.m.
In the first round of the 5A/4A tournament, which got underway Thursday at the Chehalem facility, the No. 8 Redmond boys fell to No. 1 Hood River Valley 17-0. No. 5 Ridgeview fell to No. 4 Ashland 14-4, also in the first round.
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, firstname.lastname@example.org