Having played just four matches through the first three weeks of the season, Hollister High girls water polo coach Rachel Smithee is looking forward to the team getting more match time.
“We have the next two weekends where we’re doing tournaments so I think it’s going to help,” Smithee said moments after the Haybalers’ 14-9 loss to Carmel High in a Pacific Coast Athletic League contest on Sept. 21. “We haven’t been able to play a lot so there’s definitely room for us to grow and learn a lot. I think we have a really strong team with a lot of potential. It’s just a matter of learning how to communicate and work together so we can make those moves happen in a game setting.”
Carmel used superior swimming to score on several counterattacks and breakaways. When the Haybalers were set on defense and got the ball to Coley Corrigan at the hole-set, they played the Padres to a standstill. Coley had four goals and Maddie three to lead the way.
The twin sisters play with tremendous chemistry and that shows in every match. In the team’s previous game, a 22-11 non-league win over Pacific Grove on Sept. 16, Coley scored 10 goals and Maddie had nine steals in a spectacular performance.
“They are really experienced and play year-round so they understand the game,” Smithee said. “They know how the game works and what to be looking for, and they’re also very good at working with each other and communicating with each other. They are twins so they can really anticipate each other’s needs very nicely, and they complement each other really well and are strong both offensively and defensively.”
The Corrigans have been the anchors of the team for the better part of two years. Both are physically strong, especially Coley, who is a load to handle at the hole-set position. When faced with a single defender, Coley had her way, scoring on turnaround shots from close range.
Maddie has a strong lefty shot and often scores from beyond five meters, a testament to her shotmaking ability from long range. The Corrigans powered the team to a PCAL Mission Division championship last year. However, the anticipated losses of Gilroy and Christopher to the Blossom Valley League combined with a couple of other schools not fielding girls water polo this year resulted in the PCAL having just one division this season.
That means the Balers are playing top-tier teams such as Santa Catalina, Notre Dame-Salinas and Stevenson.
“This year is a bit more challenging because they combined the leagues so we’re playing some tougher teams,” Smithee said. “But I definitely want to see us winning more and getting those numbers up.”
Hollister started off well and was tied with Carmel 3-3 after the first quarter. Senior Haillee Talavera scored two of the team’s three first-period goals, her first coming off a smart play in which her shot deflected off a Carmel defender’s arms, which redirected the path of the ball past the Carmel goalie.
“Haillee is very speedy and has a really good shot,” Smithee said. “And defensively, she’s a good asset for our team as well.”
Senior Aiyana Duran is another veteran of the program and a valuable contributor.
“This was kind of her first game back because she got injured in the first game,” Smithee said. “So we haven’t seen a lot of her, but I definitely think we’re going to be seeing a lot of good moves from her as the season goes on.”
Sophomore Gabriella Selsor is an up-and-coming player who has made dramatic strides in her game.
“She’s gotten very speedy, very aggressive and really good with her drives,” Smithee said. “She’s really energized and motivated for the sport, she works really hard and is definitely gaining that game awareness and understanding of the pool better. She’s coming out strong this year, as she went from a sub last year to a starter this year.”
Hollister’s roster also features goalie Lilia Royston, Chiara Dang, Avery Rocha and Isabella Perez, who delivered a nice pass that resulted in a Coley Corrigan goal that gave Hollister its only lead in the Carmel game, 2-1, midway through the first quarter.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]