At the beginning of last year's water polo season, only a few Pacheco girls had any experience with the sport, and Pacheco captains Olivia Andrade and Nicole Ketchum were the centerpieces of the team.
But as the season wore on, others on the team became seasoned veterans. This year, the Panthers return a core that includes Andrade, Ketchum, Abigail King, Vicky Ramirez, Savannah Verderber, Elissa Martinez and goalkeeper Paris Hernandez, along with a crowd of new players.
"It's nice having them all come back, and I was so proud of them, because you know how it is with girls this age," Pacheco coach Jill Brooks said. "We have something so unique with this team, because they bond so well. They do stuff outside of school as a team."
The Panthers finished 2-6 in the Western Athletic Conference, ahead of Livingston's first-year program, and Brooks only sees improvement in her squad.
"Everybody else but LB has splash ball. These girls grew up together playing the sport and know each other so well," Brooks said. "Ours are learning in high school. The experience those girls has was crazy. But it benefited them having the year in and just going in and saying, we're learning, we'll get better. After the year they had, they saw that. They didn't take the losses to heart and let it hurt them, they built off of that."
A surge in Pacheco school spirit has brought a few new players to the Panthers, most of them from other sports during the year.
"I heard everybody has realized that they need this third sport. Everybody wants to be a three-sport athlete now, and kudos to these kids who can do it with their grades, that's awesome," Brooks said. "But everybody's really starting to get into school spirit, and everybody wants to be Ms. Panther. So that's what I heard."
The end result is a Pacheco team that, outside of its returning starters, is long on athleticiscm and short on experience. But that won't matter to some of them.
"The mentality for this sport, because it's so difficult on your body and on your mind, if they're already an athlete say the girls are coming in from soccer, they've already got that mindset," Brooks said. "It's easy to translate it. I have a girl who's a soccer player, and everything I tell her, she puts in soccer terms. I'm seeing a lot of that."
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at 388-6565 or by e-mail at email@example.com