WATER POLO-Sandy hopes first-time players are quick leanrners
by: Kris Anderson Cherie Schaffer is among a group of freshmen playing water polo for the first time.

Put a soccer ball at the feet of a runner, give a figure skater a hockey stick and shoulder pads, or bless a Sunday driver with 850 horsepower on a mile-long oval track. Now before they trip, stall or become the meat between glass and European sandwich, remind them that you're trying to defend your championship.

Now a season removed from a state title, the Sandy Pioneers' girl's water polo team is trying to fill the pieces of players lost to graduation. As for the replacements, they're largely composed of freshmen being introduced to water polo for the first time. Some include Sawyer Kurtz, Asha Gatchell, Cherie Schaffer and Elisha Weidauer, who are each being freshly exposed to water polo upon entering high school this year. These four freshmen have even been hurled into the roles of starter or first players off the bench.

It's a daunting task, even for freshmen who are fluent in the sport.

This situation isn't ground breaking for the Pioneers. Head coach Kraig Lofstedt and his team inherited players, last season, like Amanda Snodgrass, who were new to the sport.

'(Snodgrass) didn't really know anything about water polo,' Lofstedt says.

She was a blank sheet for Lofstedt, who introduced her to the fundamentals of water polo. As her understanding of the game grew, so did her role on the team. The culmination of a season spent learning, was second team All-State honors for her performance in the state playoffs.

'Last year I didn't have a lot of confidence at the beginning,' Snodgrass says, 'and you really have to have confidence. If you have confidence you can do it, and if you move your butt, you're able to do anything.'

Yet, the challenges facing this year's team won't exactly mirror those of last season. The crop of fresh players, last season, largely consisted of sophomores or juniors, each with a pedigree of years of competitive swimming.

This season, the Pioneers' new squad is larger and younger; a group of freshmen asked to gel with experienced players, who collectively achieved a rare task. While most have a resume in competitive swimming, it was not at the level of difficulty of last season's newcomers.

Look for full coverage in the Oct. 12 edition of the Sandy Post.

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