By Mattie Hunter
Photos by Jackson Bourne
Swimming under the radar still, water polo is making waves in many Utah communities despite being on the outside looking in when it comes to acceptance from the Utah High School Activities Association.
At Herriman High, under the direction of coach Michael Goldhardt, the sport continues to grow, with three separate girls and boys teams – varsity, JV and freshman. The Mustangs had success at all levels in 2015.
“(Water polo) is like basketball, soccer and wrestling – all in eight feet of water,” said Herriman junior Courtney Scott. “It’s very intense.”
The Mustang varsity boys had a strong season, ending up in fourth place at the state championships in late May. The Herriman girls, on the other hand won the state title.
“(The strengths of the girls team) is that we all know each other inside and out, so when we play, we know exactly what each other is going to,” said varsity girls’ captain Keira Dailey, a junior. “That can be a weakness too, because sometimes we just assume and don’t actually communicate, but it’s something we’re working on.”
The success of the teams wouldn’t be possible without Goldhardt, who has been coaching since 1997 and doesn’t take his job lightly.
“Our practices depend on what mood Goldhardt is in,” Dailsy said. “If he’s in a good mood, they’re decent. If he’s in a bad mood, practices are awful.”
Coach Goldhardt is doing all he can to make sure the teams make it far this season.
“Both teams will compete on a zone and national level this year,” Goldhardt said. “We are a family. We strive to help each other and build on what we do well.
“We play really well as a team,” Scott said. “We do a good job of making sure everyone is okay,” Scott said.
The girls team continues to flourish, and the boys team is doing that exact same thing.
“(The boy’s teams strengths) are speed. They’re the fastest in the state,” Goldhardt said.
These athletes are learning the joys of the complete game of water polo, which combines swimming with strategies of sports like soccer and basketball, and it is very physical in the pool
“I feel free in the water,” said senior varsity captain Sam Cannon. “Getting that solid pass to a teammate, shoving the ball into the cage, getting that sweet steal. That’s the best part.”
Winning is a major goal for these athletes, but they also know they are paving the way for future water polo players in the state.
The goals for the boys’ team are “to take state and play well at nationals, and to create traditions or a legacy for the teams that follow us,” Cannon said.
The teams don’t hold back in their playing skills, but the family aspect is what stitches the players all together.
“As a team captain I feel like my biggest responsibility to my team is to bring them together,” Cannon said. “Each year as a team we pick a word or phrase to define us. This year we chose ‘Brothers.’ This is important to me because it’s ride or die for them. They are my family and I would do anything to help them all succeed.”
State Tournament Results
Kearns captured both the boys and girls state titles in the 4A classification, as the Cougars rolled to wins in both state title matches. The girls beat Cyprus 20-7, while the boys took care of Murray 15-5.
In 5A, Brighton edged Cottonwood 9-8 for the boys state championship and Herriman was one goal better than Brighton in the girls finale, with the Mustangs winning 11-10.