Last year the Auburn Mountainview girls rewarded first-year head coach Justin Pritchard with an undefeated league record, the East Division championship and a seventh-place finish at the state girls water polo championships.
This year, however, with the graduation of six seniors, including ace Avalon Lanz, and just three returning seniors – Julie Howe, Skyler Hall and Natalie Hayes – the youth movement is on for the Lions.
“It’s a rebuilding year, but with 15 freshman that are just excited about water polo, I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be strong in the future,” said Pritchard, who also coaches the Lion boys water polo squad. “In my second year, to have such a big group is a great way to start. I would have loved to have had them last year. I wouldn’t trade these girls for anybody.”
Pritchard said an influx of freshman is already paying off for the Lions.
“We’ve got two girls that are going to be real good polo players,” Pritchard said. “We’ve got Autumn [Hilderbrand] and Amelia [Portin], they’re both incoming freshmen, but they’re going to be good down the road. And our goalie is a freshman, Katelyn Cooper. Between those three players, they’re playing almost every single minute of every game. All the girls are getting a lot of playing time.”
To allow the girls to develop and, hopefully, blossom into good water polo players, Pritchard said he is keeping expectations low for the girls with respect to the win-loss column.
“We just want them to have fun, come to practice every day,” Pritchard said. “They work hard and come to practice.”