Under the open canopy of Juniper Swim & Fitness Center, pool water swayed and splashed to the edge of metal bleachers. Sitting and cheering were supporters of Mountain View and Summit water polo teams.
The girls teams played first on a chilly Thursday night in Bend. The Storm came out from the starting whistle firing, pulling away 8-2 after the first quarter before sending in the subs. Summit ended up winning 16-9 in a game it controlled throughout. Soon after, the Summit boys won 11-10.
It was a conflicted experience for Summit girls coach Alex Pitcher. The 21-year-old, first-year head coach won a state championship playing for the Mountain View boys in 2015. Now, the team he coaches is 11-5 and on a 10-game winning streak.
“It’s been a transition,” Pitcher said. “With the girls it’s a lot easier, but watching a guys’ game I still find myself rooting for both sides. Can’t really favor one side, but those games were always fun for me to be a part of.”
Pitcher said his team has displayed camaraderie out of the pool and strong chemistry in it. That showed Thursday, as the Storm — particularly their substitutes — remained patient and appeared unfazed by Mountain View’s attempts at a comeback. Anna Carrillo and Conner Hamlin led the way with four goals apiece, supplemented by three from Lily Carson and two from Emma Gilmore.
The Cougars are in the process of building their program, according to first-year girls coach Sean Starnes. He said he was proud of their effort despite the loss.
“No matter who we’re playing, we want to go in and play hard,” Starnes said. “Summit obviously has a well-developed, strong program, and so we knew it was going to be a challenge. I’m very happy with how the girls played. They went out there and did their best.”
Water polo has always been a club sport, but like many of its club counterparts, it is no longer receiving financial support from the Bend-La Pine School District. That makes funding the team — and securing pool space — all the more difficult, according to Pitcher and Summit boys coach Chris Smelser.
But the clubs remain, and they will continue competing as long as it is financially feasible.
“We’ve been fundraising for like three months now trying to meet our goal for the year,” Pitcher said. “We don’t get any funding, so it makes it really tough, but we’ll get through it.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, email@example.com