GH girls water polo team excited to exceed expectations

Josh VanDyke • Mar 31, 2016 at 6:30 AM

For the Grand Haven girls water polo team, the 2016 season will provide plenty of challenges and roadblocks.

The Bucs only return one senior performer in team captain Murielle Garbarino, while the vast majority of the roster is new to the sport. On top of the inexperience, first-year coach Jeff Ledger will be the new leader of the squad.

Ledger believes the team chemistry will help smooth the transition to a new coaching philosophy.

“We have a young team this year with normally only two subs off the bench,” he said. “The girls seem to get along with each other very well, which is nice for me as a new coach. The older girls are very helpful with the girls that are new to this.

“I have a few girls that are swimmers but have never played water polo before, so they have to learn the rules and everything. The upperclassmen have been very helpful with that aspect of the coaching. We often have an extra hour after practice to go over the basics of the game for the new players and everyone sticks around to help out.”

The learning curve for the team might be steep, but Ledger approaches each game as a teaching opportunity.

“After every game, we celebrate the good stuff and look at the other stuff as a math problem that we have to solve. We just take all the emotion out of it and focus on working on things that we need to get better at.

“The biggest thing for us is just keeping a positive mindset. Occasionally, you might lose a few games, but you just have to ignore that stuff and push it past you. Whenever we give up a goal, I just tell the keeper to move on and keep playing. You can’t focus on the negative stuff.”

So far, the Bucs have been competitive in every contest, jumping out to a 5-5 record.

“I’m happy with a lot of things we’re doing right now, even when we lose,” Ledger said. “We’ll see how things play out as the season goes on, and we’ll work on more things and celebrate more things.

“I just want this team to be one unit. A lot of times in swimming and diving, it’s almost like two different entities. For us, the goalie gets out of the pool first, the other girls all pat her on the top of the head and she leads the line for us.

“The goalie is a very important part of the team and I feel like that sometimes get lost with the way teams are structured.”

The biggest obstacle for the Bucs might be developing in-game chemistry and quality depth off the bench.

“It’s game by game for us,” Ledger added. “We’re still getting to know each other. That’s part of the process when you have so many players that are new to the game.

“The key is to get some of the girls who are playing a few minutes at a time in relief of the starters, to get them better. The more comfortable they are, the better our collective team will be.

“In the end, I think the girls will be happier than they were last year. And if they are happy, then I’m happy.”

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