“You are being kicked, pulled, grabbed, pushed, splashed, drowned, and all the while you are trying to put a ball into a net. It’s chaos.” – Coach Daniel O’Shea
_After falling in the finals to Exeter last year, Andover Girls Water Polo is hungry for gold in 2014. O’Shea gives an in-depth look at the teams strategies and what to look for on this hopeful road to the championship. Having played three games this season, and only posting a victory in one of them, the girls look to internalize O’Shea’s sound strategy to find success this season._
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O’Shea emphasizes a more strategic approach that targets the opponent’s weaknesses rather than Andover’s strengths. Watching hours of opponent game film helps him create specialized attack plans. The team thus far has focused on operating out of a set piece offense in which positioning, accuracy and working the lane are key. The team boasts a dynamic collection of players that can play skilfully at various positions, but the offense tends to run through Sasha Newton ’16, Co-Captain Lauren Conte ’14, and Co-Captain Kait Simpson ’14. Additionally, due to the aggressive physical nature of the sport, the team works on drawing fouls from its opponents to break out of tough matchups.
Taking a more straight-forward approach, Andover’s defense contrasts starkly with its offense. Instead of a methodical half-court game, the defensive strategy is built on a hyper-aggressive full-court press. O’Shea constantly rotates swimmers to keep them fresh and maintain the press for the whole game, fully utilizing a deep bench loaded with strong swimmers. “The idea of our defense is essentially, wear them down, wear them out. It’s a full on war of attrition,” said O’Shea.
With an intensive press comes an expectation of forced turnovers. O’Shea continued, “Steals have become a big part of our game. With such a fast team, we’re able to really take advantage of the mismatches and score some quick goals.”
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**Keys To Success:**
_ **“Water Polo is a game where you can so easily put your head in the water and not say anything to anyone. On this team we really try to emphasize communication.”** _
In order to effectively make important adjustments during games, the team needs to achieve a certain level of chemistry that will only come with efficient communication. The ultimate goal is that the players are essentially able to coach themselves in the water and make critical adjustments as the game goes on.
_ **“The four things we always want to know are: Where the ball is, where the player we’re guarding is, what’s going on around us, and what’s happening near the goal.”** _
Situational awareness in the pool is paramount to the success of the team. If players get out of position and lose track of the four main points, it opens up opportunities for opponents to score easy points. Playing a crisp and disciplined game leads to success, and that means limiting turnovers and capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes.
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Kait Simpson ’14
“She’s just a beast,” said O’Shea. Playing for the first time last year, Simpson immediately took to Water Polo and established herself as a force on the team. A powerhouse on offense and defense, Simpson was the third highest goal-scorer with 20 goals in nine games, posting 54 steals at the same time. A veteran of Andover Girls Swimming alongside Conte, Simpson’s speed allows her not only to apply relentless pressure on defense, but also to convert her steals into goals on transitions. Coach O’Shea noted that her combination of physical skills makes her almost impossible for opponents to deal with. Primarily serving as a perimeter player, she opens up the entire offense by drawing double teams. After her breakout performances last season, she was awarded MVP of the team.
Lauren Conte ’14
Conte, who joined the team her Lower year, brings valuable experience and leadership to this talented group of girls. Her deep understanding of the game allows her to direct players around the pool and serve almost as a third coach for the team. Conte’s best asset is her versatility in the water, according to O’Shea, but his favorite talent of hers is her strength as a lockdown defender, someone assigned to take the opponent’s most dangerous weapon out of the game. “She’s my go-to. When I need somebody to do something tough, she’s the person I throw into that role,” said O’Shea.