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5A state champs hit the water

WATER POLO PREVIEW - Sandy girls take aim at a repeat title behind state's MVP
by: Kris Anderson Sandy’s Alicia Hayes returns as one of the state’s top players.

by Kristopher Anderson

staff writer

Kraig Lofstedt never broke a sweat during his team's run to a state title last season.

'I thought we had a real chance, so I busted the girls, and they worked so hard for three weeks leading up to state,' says Lofstedt, who is entering his third year as head coach of the Sandy Pioneers girl's water polo team. 'Honestly, going into the two games at state versus Ashland and West Albany for the championship … I wasn't even worried about it. The girls were ready to play, and that was the funnest part of the whole year, where I got to sit back and just watch the (Pioneers) destroy two other teams.'

No Pioneers were named to the all-conference team, but eight were named to the all-state team, including Alicia Hayes, who was awarded MVP.

Hayes, a senior and captain, returns this season with a state title and with an opportunity to add that final accolade to her resume. Yet, she'll be doing so with a team much younger and with less certainty that a year before.

The Pioneers have four incoming freshmen they hope will be able to fill voids left by graduated seniors.

Returning to the state playoffs isn't a concern for Lofstedt, as they are guaranteed a spot with only two 5A teams in the Mount Hood Conference - Parkrose is the other. A topsy-turvy situation and a desire to compete against stiffer competition, has Lofstedt wanting out of 5A, all together.

'The only game that really matters is twice a year,' Lofstedt says, 'we have to play Parkrose, and it's hard to get focused on that. I want to play at a higher league. I want to play with the better teams. We've traditionally been a powerhouse, so switching from 6A to 5A was kind of hard to take.'

But until this issue is resolved, the Pioneers still have a title to defend.