Water polo: Balers look to rule the pool

Daniel Reimer had four goals vs. Christopher. 

The San Benito High boys and girls water polo teams enter the season with different storylines but plenty of optimism. For the boys, they’ll have a familiar face manning poolside in third-year coach Brendan Sigourney. For the girls, they have a new coach in Fred Latimore, who served in the same capacity at Gilroy High for the last three years.
The boys team, which plays its season-opener on Thursday, returns several players who either started or had extensive playing time from a year ago, while the girls, who are coming off an exceptional 2014 season, return three starters from a unit that finished 21-6 en route to a second-round appearance in the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs.
“I’m thrilled to be here and be a part of the Baler family,” girls coach Fred Latimore said. “I’ve seen the girls make a lot of progress in a short amount of time, and I’m thinking we’ll have a great year.”
Sigourney is also cautiously optimistic that his team can take the next step into the upper echelon of the Monterey Bay League. Sigourney feels confident about his team’s potential because of a healthy returning class that includes seniors Cole Walker, Nathan Crawford, Dakota Nix and Jake Last.
Walker is one of the team’s best all-around players, with the ability to play solid perimeter defense, handle the ball well under pressure and make the tough passes under duress.
Sigourney said Jared Murdaugh has improved more in the last two years than any other player on the team. San Benito should also be buoyed by newcomers Zander Bonnet, Oliver Garcia and Daniel Reimer, a German foreign exchange student. A 16-year-old senior, Reimer plays the hole-set position.
“He’s the real deal,” Sigourney said. “He’s played the game for a while, and he can play every position. He’s got good physical skills, is big and is everything you hope for in a hole-set player. I heard about him coming here about a week before school started, and I’m very happy to say the least.”
Even if Reimer proves to be dominating at times, Sigourney noted that opposing teams will catch on quick and set their defenses around the German. The Balers are confident they can take advantage if that situation arises.
“The reason I’m so optimistic is I have a number of guys who have seen the game at the varsity level and know what to expect,” Sigourney said.
Meanwhile, the girls have experience returning in senior drivers Grace Larson and Shannon Stephens and sophomore Ceily Hepner. Latimore expects Stephens to be a force defensively, as her 6-foot-1 frame gives her an edge in blocking passes or coming up with steals. Senior Karly Sanchez and sophomore Michaela Krulee—two players who didn’t receive much playing time last year—are expected to be vital cogs this season.
“It’s exciting to have the three returning starters back along with Karly and Michaela, because they all bring a lot of experience and athletic ability,” Latimore said. “Grace is a very strong player and is definitely going to be a threat on offense to put up some big numbers.”
Latimore has been impressed with newcomers including sophomores Catherine Nordstrom and Kelsee French and junior Cynthia Garcia.
“Catherine comes in with a gifted skill set,” Latimore said. “She’s athletic and can make things happen. Once she learns the game fully, she’ll be a heavy contributor to the team.”
Latimore added that even though Garcia and French don’t have a lot of water polo experience, he’s confident the two players can develop into solid players.
“They’re very fiery and they have a competitive side, kind of that X factor you can’t teach,” Latimore said. “They listen to directions very well, and they’re very adaptable in terms of learning new skills. We have a lot of great talent and know these girls are ready to make an impact.”

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