Matt Hauge embraces the challenge that comes with taking on a new project, and his latest venture will certainly take time to build.
Hauge assumed the head coaching role of a Madras water polo team, a sport in which a handful of kids have never played before, will certainly be a task. But what his new pupils lack in swimming ability and ball-handling skills, they make up for in the grit and toughness that the sport requires.
"What interested me about Madras is, we're getting kids from Warm Springs, kids from Culver and Madras," Hauge said. "I think (they are) harder nosed kids, and I like that … I like kids with work ethic like that; it's kind of a dream to work with kids like that."
Numbers and interest have fluctuated in Madras, particularly after last season, when a significant number of kids graduated from the boys' and girls' squads. Hauge's toughest task thus far has simply been recruiting kids to the team. The boys currently have nine on their roster, which is enough for a full team, while the girls have six — one short of fielding a complete squad in the pool — and also have a few other verbal commitments.
For Hauge, someone who grew up playing water polo, continued playing in college at the University of Oregon, and even founded a water polo program at nearby Willamette High School, he wanted to avoid seeing another program stagger. Madras was close to discontinuing its water polo program when it struggled to find a replacement for Doug Calvin, who stepped down following the 2016 fall season.
"I didn't want to see this program completely go under," Hauge said. "It's a love of the sport, man. Gotta keep trying to grow it; that's kind of the bane of water polo."
Hauge grew up playing water polo in California, until the seventh grade, when he and his family moved to Redmond. In the mid-2000s, Redmond was the only place in Central Oregon to field a water polo team; Hauge just so happened to be playing there.
"Back in those days, we were driving to Portland and Salem to play; there were no teams here," Hauge said.
Since then, however, water polo has exploded in Central Oregon and beyond in the state. Hauge helped further that development when he founded the Willamette High team and coached there for four seasons. Although the team struggled in its first two seasons, the boys' side finished top eight at state in the following two, and the program remains active.
"I asked a few of them what they thought water polo was, and they said they thought it was volleyball in the water," Hauge said. "It was a completely nonexistent thing there when I started. The first season there, they didn't even believe that the team was going to last."
Hauge likely won't face that same problem in Madras, where the program has the support of the MAC and a small, but dedicated group of parents. The main challenge will be getting enough kids to field complete teams. Hauge has dedicated a lot of time to recruiting kids — admittedly, he said, perhaps a little too much with some.
The boys team played host to Bend last Wednesday to open the season. Madras lost 14-7, but outscored Bend 5-3 in the second half. Hauge said the game was a perfect introduction to the season for the team.
"The guys really started getting together, they started actually countering and taking some chances," Hauge said.
Two nights later, both the boys and girls teams won convincingly over Redmond.
The boys won 18-10, with Cylus Hoke scoring eight goals, Grayson Dominguez adding six and Karson Hartman saving 10 Redmond shots.
For the girls, Jessa Hocker had a team-high six goals in a 16-0 win, while Ashtin Boston added four goals.