Girls Water Polo Struggles in Season-Opening Game Against Williston

Andover Girls Water Polo does a pre-game cheer for the first time in the Pan Athletic Center.

Andover Girls Water Polo coaches pictured left to right: Hillary Kavanagh, Nate Smith ’18, Howie Kalter ’07 (Head Coach)

Jessica Guo ’23 reaches up to save the ball.

Andover Girls Water Polo hosted its season opener against Williston, the 2022 New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Champions, on Saturday. Although Andover lost 22-3, the team looks forward to improving its strategy, positioning, and most of all, team chemistry.

According to Molly MacKinnon ’24, facing off against the reigning league champions posed a significant challenge, but it also provided an opportunity for the team to grow. The game allowed the team to regain its rhythm and identify areas of weakness. 

“It was a really good opportunity for some of the newer players on the team to get to experience playing a really good team. It definitely helped us understand what areas we needed to improve as individuals and a team. It was also important to see how the other team played, and what strategies they used. I am hoping we can learn from that and apply it to our games in the future,” said MacKinnon. 

Coming into the game, a number of team members had never played water polo. According to Sophie Staii ’25, creating a supportive team environment and fostering a learning atmosphere were essential in helping new teammates feel welcomed and adjust to the pace of the game. 

“We worked on generally setting up positions because a significant number of the team is new to water polo. It took a little to understand how the game worked, but once the players did, they did a lot better and we didn’t let in as many goals,” said Staii. 

Co-Captain Kaia Heslin ’23 shared a similar perspective to Staii. Heslin advocates for promoting positivity and capitalizing on the team’s strengths, with numerous teammates coming off of a successful swim season. She also believes that it is crucial to learn from each game and use the mistakes as learning opportunities. 

“We take each game as an opportunity to improve and learn. More concretely, I think that we have speed on our side against some of the teams. I think that we should work on using our speed to our advantage and can help us out throughout the rest of the season,” said Heslin. 

Heslin highlighted MacKinnon’s performance, which displayed her athleticism, leadership, and hard work. 

“Molly MacKinnon did an amazing job in the hole and two-meter offense. Her ability to consistently get good positioning is impressive and something that we can use to our advantage in the future,” said Heslin. 

Staii believed that the advice experienced players provided on Saturday contributed to the team’s gradual improvement over the course of the game. Positioning, communication, and trust are all key elements of a successful team, according to Staii. 

“Everyone was good at working together, the experienced players were really nice and helped the newcomers figure out where to go while playing. Experienced players also helped out on the bench. They explained what was happening, like for example, why there were certain fouls,” said Staii. 

According to MacKinnon, nurturing an optimistic mindset in the team and receiving guidance from both coaches and fellow teammates are essential for overall improvement. She acknowledges the team’s efforts during practice and their eagerness to embrace new knowledge. 

“We have a new team this year. We have a few people returning, but a lot of the team has not played water polo before. In practice, everyone is doing a great job at listening to the coach and applying the advice he gives us. We are working really hard in drills, everybody is picking up the sport quickly, and most people have a great attitude towards learning the sport and learning something new because it can be challenging,” said MacKinnon. 

Andover will face Deerfield and Greenwich in a double-header on Saturday and host Phillips Exeter Academy on Wednesday.